miércoles, 10 de octubre de 2018

Foundations for an AI strategy

The technological hype now is called Artificial Intelligence. Whether you are part production or the consumer side of the digital economy, it is almost certain that you will read, listen or watch some kind of piece of new or report about AI in the next days, and in the following ones, and in days after. The references to AI look pervasive. However, It is curious that according with Google Trends, the term "Artificial Intelligence" is used and mentioned far less than in 2004.

Whether or not AI debate is more central now to the technological debate than before, many interesting studies are published continuously about its long and medium term impact. One of these studies was published some weeks ago by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). The study concludes that AI has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 percent higher cumulative GDP compared with today.

However, AI adoption might be not equal across territories, companies and people. The study mentioned above warns about the potential emerge of a triple divide due to  this unequal adoption. On one hand, the countries leading AI development could capture an additional 20-25% in economic benefits compared with today, while emerging economies may accrue only an extra 5-15%. On the other hand, by 2030 the AI frontrunner companies will double their cash flow while the laggard ones might experience around a 20 percent decline in their cash flow. Finally, the job profiles characterized by repetitive activities could experience the largest decline as a share of total employment to around 30 percent by 2030, from some 40 percent.

What the MGI report does not analyse in deep are the causes for the triple divide. These causes will not reside in the future, the AI divides will be the corollary of the present breaches in the adoption of the digital technology. 

To begin with the geographical divide, AI cannot be adopted if you do not have access to it. Therefore, the precondition for an equal AI development in every country and region is having an homogeneous level of connectivity worldwide. Unfortunately, we are far from it. The UN Broadband Commission has been warning of the massive lack of broadband access in the developing countries, estimating that half of the world population does not have internet connectivity.

The case for the companies AI divide is slightly difference. Almost every company has some kind of Internet. But broadband networks are not the only required infrastructure on the digital world which economy is based on data. The adoption of AI is almost impossible for those companies that do not have access to storage and processing capabilities. And the adoption divide of the cloud services which provide these computing capabilities is already there. While almost 45% of large companies  in Europe has adopted cloud services, less than 20% of SMEs has done so.

Finally, the seeds for the future workers AI divide is the current difference in digital skills adoption. More than 40% of EU workers lack of the basic digital skills. There is few risk on a bet on these workers as the future losers of the AI revolution.

There is a frenzy among countries, particularly the economy leaders, in developing AI strategies to obtain its undeniable benefits. However, these strategies, even in these countries could be doomed. The lack of solid foundations ruins even the more splendid mansion and AI could not flourish without the right and previous deployment of connectivity, storage and processing infrastructures and digital skills.





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