Irish firms are lagging behind their European rivals in embracing artificial intelligence

The Microsoft and EY study claims the country risks being left behind in development of AI tech.

By Jonathan Keane Reporter, Fora

IRELAND IS AT risk of falling behind its peers in Europe in taking advantage of the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in business, according to a new report.

The research, which was conducted by Microsoft and EY, examined perceptions on artificial intelligence among 227 companies in Europe. Some 20 companies in Ireland participated in the research.

It found that most Irish companies are aware of AI, however few have implemented the technology. Three-quarters of Irish respondents said they are in some kind of planning or research with the technology but have not deployed in any large-scale way.

EY Ireland partner Simon MacAllister said that Irish organisations are “clearly testing the waters with AI but are less mature than other European markets when it comes to actively piloting AI initiatives”.

The report claims the hold up can be partly attributed to “board inertia”. While a large majority of staff in Irish companies may have some knowledge or interest in AI, leaders on company boards don’t necessarily feel the same way.

Those that do have some kind of AI activity in the company are lacking a coordinated approach to fully utilise the technology, it added.

Other challenges cited include a lack of competence in data management and “information overload” in an area where huge amounts of data are necessary. The rapid development of the sector also made it difficult for firms to keep up with changes.

“Businesses in Ireland now need to get their hands dirty with AI, either internally or in partnership with strategic vendors, to drive AI adoption and understand its full potential to harness the power of humans, allowing them to focus on the delivery of high-value work,” MacAllister said.

181015_NCP1_022 (002) Microsoft MD Cathriona Hallahan and EY's Simon MacAllister
Source: Naoise Culhane

In the wider European study, 89% said they expect AI to optimise how their business operates in some way while 74% said that they expect AI to be an important tool in engaging customers.

Over half of the respondents said that they think AI will have some kind of impact on a business area that is “entirely unknown to the company today”.

Closing the gap

Microsoft Ireland’s managing director Cathriona Hallahan said that “organisations in Ireland must close the gap with their European peers in adopting AI to digitally transform and enhance their competitiveness”.

“While AI presents huge opportunities, we have a responsibility to build a partnership of people and technology if organisations are to successfully deploy and use AI to do and achieve more into the future,” she said.

Closing this gap will be a task for business, government, academia and civil society alike, she added.

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