AI will create or axe jobs? Business leaders differ: Microsoft-IDC study

Despite the hype around artificial intelligence (AI), only one third of organisations in India have adopted it in a comprehensive way, a study by Microsoft and IDC has found. 

The survey, which was conducted with 1,560 business decision makers in mid and large-sized organizations across 15 countries in the region, found that 77 per cent understood that AI is important for their organisations' competitiveness. 

Those companies that have adopted AI expect it it will more than double their competitiveness by 2021.

The study looked at six parameters: investment, data, strategy, the need for cultural changes and skilling and reskilling workforces to make AI work for the country. 

Business leaders adopting AI face three top challenge: lack of advanced analytics or adequate infrastructure and tools to develop actionable insights, data strategy and data readiness are not seen as strategic priorities and lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI, the study found. There is also the issue of having the right organizational culture, it said.

Investments and the jobs question

While most organisations have a strategy around AI, but investments are still low.

"AI is a boardroom topic but the real ability for a CXO is to think what it means for his or her business, what should be their strategy around AI, what it means for their business, that's how investment follows," said Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer at Microsoft.

On the issue of replacing jobs, the study found 16 per cent business leaders think AI will create new jobs, 18 per cent felt that the technology will replace workers. 

Workers were more optimistic, with only 4 per cent expecting AI to replace jobs, and 21 per cent to create new ones. At the same time, 12 per cent of workers expect no impact to their jobs in three years from now. 

"The impact of AI is that they all believe its going to augment the work scenario. 64 per cent business leaders believe AI will augment jobs and 63 per cent workers believe the same," said Ranganath Sadasiva, director, enterprise at IDC Centre for Consultancy Research. 

Srivathsa said the notion that AI will take away jobs was misplaced and there was a need to understand the new jobs that are likely to come up in the future. 

"There is a class of jobs like data scientists who are creating AI algorithms. That will continue to increase because AI as a technology is just starting out. The areas where AI will augment jobs (are) the tasks which are repetitive in nature. They will get automated, but the end to end jobs- the thinking and engaging with the customer will become more enhanced. A third kind is the people who will be required to train the AI systems. There will be new categories of jobs," she said. 

The study also found that workers are more willing to reskill than business leaders believe they are. While 32% of senior executives felt that workers find it challenging to reskill and upskill, only 12 per cent of workers saw it as a challenge.

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