AI will boost Ireland’s GDP by €48bn by 2030

22 Nov 2017

Image: Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock

AI could be one of the biggest commercial opportunities for Ireland.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to boost Irish GDP by 11.6pc or the equivalent of an extra €48bn, according to new research by PwC.

The consulting giant recommends that the effect on jobs in the long term will at least be neutral, if not net positive, but this depends on employers putting Ireland at the forefront of the AI revolution by investing in skills and technology.

‘Put an action plan in place around AI and manage with the same discipline you would put around any technology-enabled transformation. Don’t wait for it to happen around you’

The analysis in the PwC report The Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Ireland’s Economy shows that the potential for AI to impact the Irish economy is slightly lower than the global average (13.8pc by 2030 and $15.7trn) but slightly higher than in other northern European (9.9pc by 2030 and $1.8trn) and southern European (11.5pc by 2030 and $0.7trn) economies.

The global average is boosted by regions such as China and developed Asia, where productivity typically lags and there is a lot to be gained from AI.

The research shows that the majority of the Irish economic gains between now and 2030 will be driven by enhancements in consumer products, specifically increased product quality (3.7pc) and more personalisation and greater variety of products (4.1pc). These stimulate consumer spending and, importantly, stimulate additional businesses entering the market, leading to higher quantities of production and more affordable goods.

Increased productivity through augmentation of labour and automation of some roles will also drive gains, but to a lesser extent (3.7pc) when compared to total consumption-side enhancements (7.8pc).

Will robots steal our jobs?

The report finds that Ireland has the foundations and potential to successfully adopt AI in the near term, but the right investment in skills and technologies needs to be made to translate these strong fundamentals into successful AI adoption.

‘Decide how AI suits you best – don’t just get attracted to the shiny’

In many ways, by maintaining a focus on education, technology and skills, Ireland could weather the storm and answer the ultimate question: will robots steal our jobs? Crucially, it puts the world of work in a similar predicament to one that saddle tanners, wheelwrights and blacksmiths may have found themselves in when the automobile arrived at the dawn of the 20th century.

PwC said that the adoption of ‘no human in the loop’ technologies (those technologies that remove humans from the process and decision-making) will mean that some jobs will inevitably become redundant, but others will be created by the shifts in productivity and greater consumer demand.

Speaking with, PwC Ireland’s digital director, Ronan Fitzpatrick, said that Ireland can weather and thrive from the AI storm if it plays its cards right.

“The first thing to say is that Ireland has a good basis to build from – we already score well on the Global Innovation Index. But the key piece I would say is that you should act now and not wait or be bypassed.

“Put an action plan in place around AI and manage with the same discipline you would put around any technology-enabled transformation. Don’t wait for it to happen around you; assess the opportunities and the skills and capabilities you need to act on those opportunities.”

He pointed out that Ireland has already gotten a lot of things right. “Both our colleges and our start-up scene are well tuned into AI and its potential from a skills perspective and from delivery of enhanced products across a variety of sectors.

“We will undoubtedly have issues of capacity and supply of skilled capabilities. We need to continue to focus on an educated workforce, STEM skills and making Ireland an attractive place to work.

Businesses that don’t want to be bypassed by AI need to act quickly. “Consider the technological feasibility of AI, your processes and the availability of the data needed to support AI.

“Data becomes the primary asset. What investments and changes would enable you to capture more data and use it more productively? With this map in place, you can then develop the cost-benefit analysis for automation and augmentation. Decide how AI suits you best – don’t just get attracted to the shiny.”

But seriously, will robots steal our jobs? “In overall terms, with a longer lens, we see AI as being pretty much net neutral on jobs. Some losses in the productivity aspects of AI will be made up in the delivery of new and improved products and services.

“In terms of occupations, there are areas where it is not whole occupations that will be replaced by computers and algorithms, but only particular tasks that are conducted as part of that occupation.”

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