Analytics Institute and PwC to benchmark Irish firms’ AI prowess versus US

2 May 2019

Image: © Kovalenko I/

Are firms fully leveraging the opportunities that the age of AI heralds?

PwC Ireland is joining forces with the Analytics Institute on a new survey to see how Irish companies are performing in artificial intelligence (AI) and benchmark this against 1,000 US companies.

The survey, which concludes tomorrow (3 May), will look at investment in AI, how leaders are availing of the opportunities in AI and the challenges they will face.

‘While we expect that the nature of jobs will change and that some will be susceptible to automation, our research also shows that AI adoption will result in new job creation and job enrichment’

PwC Ireland AI leader Darren O’Neill said that the survey will provide a valuable barometer for Irish business leaders in AI best practice as they plan for an AI-enabled future.

AI in Ireland so far

Man with brown hair and blue eyes smiling slightly.

PwC Ireland AI leader Darren O’Neill. Image: Maxwells

“In Ireland, while we see some introductions of AI across many business sectors, there is some way to go compared to the progress made by global CEOs,” O’Neill explained.

Examples in Ireland include the use of AI by businesses for invoice production and standardisation.

According to O’Neill, AI tools are being used to automate the manual low-value steps, reducing costs and processing time.

“In insurance, we have the introduction of sensors for better risk management using AI technology. In retail, where getting closer to the customer is critical, the use of data and AI is becoming prevalent to know their preferences and target specific customers to influence their purchasing. We also see some forms of AI healthcare diagnosis and disease management, and AI-led customer service in the form of chatbots. AI technology has also enabled the connected home phenomenon, where heating systems can be remotely controlled, fridge stocks monitored, and of course we can now all talk to digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. On the road, while self-driving cars are not in Ireland yet, we expect this to change in the next decade.”

However, PwC’s research also shows that many businesses in Ireland and globally are not providing the foundation that AI needs to be really successful.

“For example, much work needs to be done where data labelling is concerned; this process of tagging data to describe it makes it far more valuable. AI has a huge potential not only for automating customer operations and predicting consumer habits, it can also be used with data and analytics to better manage risk, help employees make better decisions and lots more.

“PwC’s 2019 Irish CEO survey suggests that Irish business leaders need to invest more in AI to keep up with global competitors and to fully leverage competitive advantage. They need to understand better how AI can be applied in their businesses, and ensure their organisations have the right talent, data and technology to fully exploit AI opportunities.”

AI and the future of work

PwC estimated in its 2017 report, ‘The Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Ireland’s Economy’, that Irish GDP could be 11.6pc higher in 2030 as a result of AI – the equivalent of an additional €48bn – making AI one of the biggest commercial opportunities for Ireland.

“PwC’s 2019 Irish CEO survey stated that AI will create as many jobs in the long run as it will disrupt and/or displace. Much of the focus of AI to date has been on the impact that increased automation will have on jobs. There is no doubt that the transition to enterprise-wide AI will need managing but, in the main, AI should enhance job quality,” O’Neill continued.

“While we expect that the nature of jobs will change and that some will be susceptible to automation, our research also shows that AI adoption will result in new job creation and job enrichment. It is fair to say that many of the jobs in existence today were not even thought of 20 years ago. We expect to see an ‘autonomy’ wave by the mid-2030s, when AI will increasingly be able to analyse data from multiple sources, make decisions and take physical actions with little or no human input.

“In the long run, AI should add to overall job enhancement, taking the mundane or ‘boring’ elements out of jobs, and will be good for business.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years