The age of artificial intelligence (AI) is here, and countries in the Asia Pacific (APAC) and Middle East zones have set their eyes on the prize. Start-up activity around AI is booming, and the region is set to overtake the rest of the world in AI spending over the next three years — reaching $15 billion by 2022, according to IDC.
Against this backdrop, we surveyed 590 senior executives across the region in late 2019 to understand their companies’ AI plans and actions. Our goal was to learn how APAC and Middle East businesses are employing AI, how this emerging technology is impacting business and how they are overcoming challenges to reap value from machine intelligence across various functional areas. (To learn more about the study, including its methodology, see our white paper, “How Companies Can Move AI from Labs to the Business Core.”)
While our research was conducted before the outbreak of COVID-19, we believe the pandemic only underscores the urgency around implementing AI — and doing so thoughtfully. Advanced forms of AI are critical to our understanding and treatment of infectious disease. Machine learning (ML) and deep learning are helping infectious disease scientists more quickly sequence and model treatment therapies and vaccinations, accelerating time-to-market and limiting unintended consequences. They are also helping researchers more effectively forecast and foretell the contours of pandemics. These capabilities are applicable to every business in every industry.
Despite significant progress, AI’s impact in APAC and the Middle East is today limited by the fact that businesses remain in experimentation mode (see Figure below). If this is a cloud, there is indeed a silver lining: organisations in the region can learn from the hard-won experience of businesses elsewhere. With this in mind, we prescribe the following procedures to shift AI from experimental mode to production mode.