While artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the top technologies that will change the Singaporean business landscape in the next three years, most organizations in Singapore are still fearful of AI.
LivePerson, a NASDAQ-listed global tech company that specializes in asynchronous communication, AI and automation, surveyed 500 Singaporean IT, customer experience and digital decision-makers, revealing that a staggering 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) have AI standards or guidelines in place.
As part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the government has announced plans to almost double the adoption of AI. It is widely recognized that AI has revolutionized 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.
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 organizations, employees and customers. A significant number of Singaporean businesses using AI say the technology has had a positive impact on employee satisfaction (52 percent) and customer retention (53 percent).
Singaporean businesses’ top concerns with AI
At the same time, the powerful outcomes that can 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 are: lack of transparency in how important decisions are made (92 per cent), unauthorized access to data (92 per cent) and loss of privacy (91 per cent).
Most important to the Singaporean businesses are that people and organizations 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).
Attitudes toward AI not reflected in practice
While Singaporean organizations are concerned about the impact of AI on society, the research suggests Singaporean businesses could be doing more to minimize 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.
Where Singaporean businesses look to for AI leadership
There is 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 organizations, 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.
Rob LoCascio, CEO and Founder of LivePerson,said: “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, we feel it is our duty at LivePerson as an enabler of this technology to highlight and drive discussion. And as the founder and CEO of LivePerson, 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.”