Asia has credible potential for becoming a frontrunner in the AI era: survey

Image courtesy of Conor Luddy

A new survey by MIT Technology Review Insights, in association with ADP, Infocomm Media Development Authority, Genesys, Splunk, and the Asia School of Business, has revealed that executives in Asia Pacific are bullish about the prospect of artificial intelligence (AI) transforming their companies. 

The research published in two reports, “Asia’s AI agenda: The ecosystem” and “Asia’s AI agenda: AI for business,” is based on a multi-industry survey of 871 senior executives drawn from 13 Asia-Pacific markets.

“While AI is not yet a mainstream application, it is being used by more than half of the companies we surveyed across Asia Pacific to solve business problems, create new products and services, and increase productivity,” says Claire Beatty, editor of the report. “Executives report that they are satisfied with the AI ecosystems that are emerging across the region, and that the business areas first to be augmented by AI are customer channels and processes.” 

According to the research, Asia has credible potential for becoming a frontrunner in the AI era. From China to Japan, Singapore to India, policymakers across Asia are developing national-level plans for using AI to enhance domestic and regional competitiveness. Business leaders are positive about the region’s AI resources, particularly data availability and the quality of external talent. More can be done to bolster the R&D environment, and governments can still provide greater support. 

China is rapidly applying AI, but basic research lags. The abundance of data, firm government push, and highly innovative tech companies give China a distinct advantage in applying AI to domains such as healthcare and finance, and across mobile platforms. Yet foundational research can be strengthened by further integrating private-sector and academic R&D. 

More than 50% of the Asia-Pacific companies in the survey sample have already launched AI. Businesses in Asia are past the halfway mark when it comes to deploying AI. The highest level of AI penetration is in North Asia—Japan and South Korea. Indonesia and Vietnam are at the most nascent stage; with just a quarter of companies using AI. 

The top three AI priorities are improving the customer experience, faster and better business decisions, and increasing operational efficiency. Less than a third of the ‘AI adopters’ have a centralized strategy for AI, with the majority (39%) deploying AI on a case-by-case basis. Improving the customer experience is the number one priority, with more than half of survey respondents already having used AI in customer processes. Greater decision-making speed and quality, and increased operational efficiency, are also ranked as organizational priorities for AI. 

AI constraints include talent, a lack of data, and high costs. A shortage of internal talent, noted by 58% of survey respondents, ranks as the region’s greatest challenge in deploying AI. Yet filling the gap is not easy, as AI engineers are scarce and in high demand. Other top AI challenges reported in the survey include insufficient data and high costs of deployment.