As more than half of Singaporean businesses believe that AI will replace jobs, many are actively retraining employees to prepare for the age of automation. CEO and Founder of LivePerson Rob LoCascio says business leaders need to foster an ethical mindset so that AI does not become the tech that divides us.
While artificial intelligence is one of the top technologies that will change the Singaporean business landscape in the next three years, a recent survey by LivePerson reveals most organisations in Singapore are still fearful of AI.
As part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the government has announced plans to almost double the adoption of AI. It is widely recognised that AI has revolutionised the economy and improved society in recent years. Plans are already in place to develop AI as a strategic capability and to look at how Singapore can become a trusted global hub for test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions.
According the survey by LivePerson, a global tech company that specialises in asynchronous communication, AI and automation, out of 500 Singaporean IT workers surveyed, it revealed that 98 per cent of respondents are taking steps to mitigate the risk of negative outcomes and to plan for the ethical use of AI.
Three in five businesses surveyed (64 per cent) already have AI standards or guidelines in place.
The findings of this research reflect the same sentiment that AI has the potential to markedly increase industry growth, with half of digital leaders surveyed actively incorporating AI into their businesses to drive positive outcomes for their organisations, employees and customers.
A significant number of Singaporean businesses using AI say the technology has had a positive impact on employee satisfaction (52 per cent) and customer retention (53 per cent).
At the same time, powerful outcomes that may be delivered by AI have given rise to new ethical considerations about the technology’s potential impact. Clear concerns emerged in the research about AI’s potential to negatively affect society, particularly when it comes to privacy and personal information. The most common concerns held by Singaporean businesses include a lack of transparency in how important decisions are made (92 per cent), unauthorised access to data (92 per cent) and loss of privacy (91 per cent).
Most important to the Singaporean businesses are that people and organisations responsible for creating and implementing systems are held accountable for the impact of their system (93 per cent) and AI systems should ensure private data is protected and kept confidential (93 per cent).
While Singaporean organisations are concerned about the impact of AI on society, the research suggests Singaporean businesses could be doing more to minimise the potential risks.
Steps businesses are taking to mitigate the risk of negative outcomes primarily include: providing reskilling training for employees (44 per cent); consulting experts (38 per cent); developing best practice guidelines (38 per cent); reviewing global best practices (36 per cent); and conducting reviews (35 per cent) among others.
There appears to be mixed sentiment among Singaporean digital leaders on whether accountability for AI should lie with those developing (39 per cent) or deploying the AI (37 per cent).
Within their organisations, respondents reported the board of directors (35 per cent) and company leadership, including C-suites (31 per cent), are most likely to have ultimate accountability for the decisions made by AI systems.
Singaporean business leaders have differing views on who should be responsible for setting AI regulation and enforcing standards. Some say the responsibility sits with the Singaporean government (41 per cent), some think industry bodies and associations (33 per cent) should be responsible, and some point to global technology companies (30 per cent). However, interestingly, less than half (39 per cent) of businesses think it’s ‘extremely important’ that AI systems comply with all relevant international and Singaporean regulations.
According to LivePerson CEO and Founder Rob LoCascio, industry is in the cusp of a new era, and being future-ready includes considered collaboration between private and public sectors to develop measured guidelines on the ethical use of AI.
“We’re on the cusp of a new era. Artificial intelligence is opening up tremendous potential for businesses and consumers alike. However, as with any new technology, businesses need to approach the development and implementation of AI with reflection under an ethical and long-term lens, looking at practical and proactive measures to ensure ongoing ethical implementation that results in the best outcomes for customers. As Singapore aims to become a thriving hub for AI in this region, in pursuit of its Smart Nation vision, at LivePerson, we feel it is our duty as an enabler of this technology to highlight and drive discussion. I would like to reiterate to other business leaders the need to foster an ‘ethical AI mindset’. This starts with developing a well-defined ethical AI strategy, as without this, AI will become the next digital technology that divides us. Ultimately, the technology industry, business and government must work together to right the future,” says LoCascio.
(Ed. Tech Research Asia surveyed 500 IT, customer experience and digital decision makers in Singaporean businesses in June 2019. The research includes a mix of business decision-makers from companies of at least 20 employees in various industries. LivePerson says it deploys ‘conversational commerce solutions’ to orchestrate humans and AI, at scale.)