‘AI is without any doubt the new fuel for the modern economy’

26 Aug 2022

John Clancy. Image: Galvia

John Clancy from the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum says organisations need to open up to AI to be ready for the future.

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AI – Here for Good’ is the clever play on words for the title of our national artificial intelligence strategy. It emphasises the strategy’s focus on ethical and responsible adoption as well as recognising that AI is irrevocably reshaping our economy and society.

Ireland is well placed to be an international world leader in using AI to benefit our economy and society. As a country, we have invested heavily in developing IT talent, entrepreneurship and connectivity. We are also home to some of the world’s largest ICT businesses.

Key to getting there is driving the adoption of AI in Irish enterprise, helping large and small enterprises to adopt and benefit from digital transformation.

AI is without any doubt the new fuel for the modern economy carrying with it the potential of disrupting and transforming almost every industry and business sector. However, even when the benefits are well recognised and the investment allocated, the path to digital transformation is not always smooth. Research shows that 70pc of digital transformations fail, falling short of their objectives, and often with profound and costly consequences.

As with any other fast-evolving technology, AI also carries some serious implications and challenges towards its adoption. A collaborative, transparent approach can make all the difference.

Opening up to AI

What is interesting to note is that aside from the obvious technical challenges, it is actually too often the many social, economic and organisational factors that can impact the successful delivery of an AI solution. But these are frequently overlooked.

Business goes through many stages of evolution as they grow. This shapes their culture, structure, and technology in complex ways. At times, the culture of an organisation, or its bureaucratic processes or legal systems and practices, can be the prime cause of friction towards change.

Creating a culture of openness and transparency is key throughout the digital transformation journey.

Tied to the media hype of AI is the fear that robots are going to take over all our jobs. It would be naive and irresponsible to say AI won’t replace some jobs. But resisting change rather than preparing for what is to come is potentially disastrous for business.

AI is a tool for humans to get better at their work, save time, be more productive and focus on creative tasks rather than be timelessly preoccupied with boring mundane work. We must remember that our human capacity for compassion and empathy is going to be a valuable asset in the future workforce and there are certain jobs hinged on care, creativity and education that computers just can’t replace.

The responsibility is on organisations to evolve and create their own unique identity, culture, work style, management and reporting structure in this new world of work.

This aligns with the three core principles reflected in the National AI Strategy which, when adopted, offer a greater likelihood of success on the digital transformation journey. They are:

  1. Adopt a human-centric approach to application of AI )albeit viewing AI as a tool to support human decision making)
  2. Stay open and adaptable to new innovations
  3. Ensure good governance to build trust and confidence for innovation to flourish

This last point is crucial because, ultimately, if AI is to be truly inclusive (free of bias) and have a positive impact on all of us, we need to be clear on its role in our society and ensure that trust is the ultimate marker of success.

Industry research is already showing that those that reach the promised land gain a significant competitive edge.

Future-proofing our economy

The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, supported by organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and Endeavour Ireland, is playing a leading role in connecting those digital native and transformed organisations to those that have yet to embark on their digital transformation journey, allowing opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing.

Additionally, part of our focus at the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum (EDAF) is to look at funding initiatives that empower organisations to start their digital transformation journey and ultimately help them gain a competitive advantage.

Research is also key, in terms of better understanding the impact of digitalisation, understanding our progress in comparison to our EU and international peers, and gaining insights on how to further exploit opportunities. On the surface, it seems Ireland has done a good job related to digitalisation compared to the rest of the EU, but we need research to know exactly how much of it has had a transformative impact, as every country has its own dynamics.

By embracing digitalisation we are future-proofing our economy for the years ahead. The digital economy presents huge opportunities for Irish SMEs to improve services, enhance customer experience, and increase competitiveness.

I look forward to continuing to share our learnings at Galvia with the EDAF, so that together we can collaborate and help create an AI community that is equitable, transparent, secure and above all human-centric.

By John Clancy

John Clancy is the founder and CEO of Galvia, an AI platform that draws actionable insights from data for clients such as Nestlé, Medtronic, Atos and NUI Galway, supporting their digital transformation journey. Clancy is also a member of the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum.

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