The global AI agenda: Asia-Pacific


    This report is part of “The global AI agenda,” a thought leadership program by MIT Technology Review Insights examining how organizations are using AI today and planning to do so in the future. Featuring a global survey of 1,004 AI experts conducted in January and February 2020, it explores AI adoption, leading use cases, benefits, and challenges, and seeks to understand how organizations might share data with each other to develop new business models, products, and services in the years ahead.



    The survey report is a part of The Global AI Agenda, a thought leadership program by MIT Technology Review Insights that examines how organizations are presently using AI and planning to do so in the future. The global survey was conducted in January and February 2020 across 1004 senior executives in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America from multiple sectors. This briefing paper has been produced in partnership with Genesys, NUS Business School’s Centre on AI Technology for Humankind, SGInnovate and the Hong Kong Baptist University.

    The report outlines the survey findings and supplements it with inputs gathered from the in-depth interviews conducted with leading AI experts from global organizations such as Walmart, World Economic Forum, Vodafone, Emirates Group, Bank of Singapore to name a few.

    Traditionally speaking, Asia-Pacific (APAC) have always lagged behind Europe and the USA in terms of technology solutions. However, AI is the only technology where APAC has an upper hand and could be leading the global market in the next few years. While it is expected that most of the growth will happen in China, countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore and Taiwan will not lag behind. At a time when the growth curve of AI is exponential, business leaders need to be sensitive to what kind of business value they want to achieve and the way towards it.

    Given this backdrop, the report gives a sneak peek into the mindset of the executives in the APAC region towards AI. More than half of the surveyed respondents had already deployed AI in some form or the other in their operations by 2017, a number which is much higher as compared to the North American average. By 2019, the APAC average is expected to touch 96%. As far as deployment of AI in business processes is concerned, IT management, customer service and R&D are the three top areas where AI technology will be used extensively in the next three years. Sales & marketing is one area where AI is poised to grow the fastest by 2022. In addition to this, the report also reveals that as good as 46% of respondents in the APAC feel that AI investments have exceeded their expectations and has exhibited a high ROI. The benefit areas include risk management, faster time-to-market and improved management decision-making.

    However, there are challenges galore with organizations struggling to build business cases for AI projects. Other challenges include recruiting the right talent and skill for the job, availability of reliable data, regulatory or security concerns and lack of knowledge regarding use of AI in the top management. Nevertheless, the good part is executives have showed willingness to share data for increasing speed and visibility across supply chains. In fact, two-thirds of respondents are very/somewhat willing to share datasets with third parties, a number which is slightly lower than the North American average.

    Relevance of the Report

    At present, it is undoubtedly true that AI makes up for many things for today’s enterprises. As the reach of AI is transcending all barriers, business and enterprises are driving improvements with this technology. When it comes to adoption of AI, businesses across APAC is much ahead as compared to other regions and have triggered productivity gains in the process. The report reinforces this trend through survey findings. In addition to providing specific drift towards AI in the APAC region, it also outlines the consequent challenges that the region is facing and how the executives plan to deal with it. Overall, it is a good read for those readers who wants to gain a quick understanding of the AI scenario in the APAC region.

    Key Takeaways

    • The Asia-Pacific region is an early adopter of AI. Enabling factors such as availability of right talent, strong government incentives and consumer market that is mobile-savvy has led to the sudden spurt in AI adoption. In fact, close to half of the respondents have revealed that ROI on AI has exceeded expectations. 
    • Customer care, sales and marketing have emerged as the top areas where AI is being used. Of these, customer care is dominating the scene as there is a continuous need to improve customer service and support and effectively migrate customers across online and offline channels.
    • The executives have agreed to the view that there is still a sense of caution when it comes to sharing proprietary data with third parties. Despite proven efficiency in supply chain, enhanced customer experience and new business model on the back of data sharing, respondents still believe more clarity is required from regulators and industry bodies.

    Report Contributors

    MIT Technology Review

    The global AI agenda: Asia-Pacific

    By MIT Tech Review
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