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Australian small businesses at the back of the pack with AI 

Australian small businesses at the back of the pack with AI 
Australian small businesses at the back of the pack with AI 

At a time when investors and lawmakers are scrambling to propel countries like China, the US, and Canada to be the leaders of artificial intelligence, Australia needs to catch up. According to industry experts, Australia is at the back of the pack regarding AI funding and regulation. 

The Guardian reports that the government is considering its next steps after the Bletchley declaration in the UK. In early November, Australia and other governments signed the Bletchley Declaration affirming that AI should be designed, developed, deployed, and used in a safe, human-centric, trustworthy, and responsible manner.

They also recognized the importance of collaborating on testing the next generation of AI models against a range of critical national security, safety, and societal risks.

It’s easier for China and the US to achieve this ambitious goal. They are home to most of the world’s top tech companies. “Between 2012 and 2018, the United States invested 20 times more in AI and big data than Europe,” says a report by management consulting firm McKinsey. 

“If Europe is to make the most of AI, it must find a way to bring together stakeholders across the continent. One potential source of leadership is the northern European group of nine ‘digital front-runners,’ namely Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden,” says the McKinsey report. These nine digital front runners are ahead of AI infrastructure and policy environment. 

Three pillars of AI development

“In formulating AI strategies, China and the United States have prioritized three pillars: early-mover advantage, private and public investment, and development of large technology sectors and talent pools,” according to McKinsey.

ALSO READ: Governments are serious about investing in AI to boost businesses

Financial consultancy firm RSM says to understand what is currently happening on the technology development front; one needs to consider the 1990s technology boom. “Under technological conditions that now seem primitive, productivity-enhancing capital expenditures increased by roughly 50%. Then think of the surge in productivity that followed, and it’s difficult not to get excited about the AI revolution.”

RSM says it can bring critical changes to the business sector. “Machine learning, generative AI, and artificial general intelligence—will have profound implications for businesses and the economy.”

Small businesses and AI

The Australian government has allocated $17 million to boost small businesses and “upskill” their AI abilities. There are concerns that some don’t know enough about AI and urgently need to increase training. 

The government is set to establish five AI adoption centers across Australia. “The Government is seeking applications from Australian businesses, industry partners, and research institutions that can deliver training and upskilling packages to businesses.”

At the moment, Australia ranks at the bottom of a list of business AI adoption on a global scale. Experts and lawmakers are concerned about this and are hoping to change this outlook. 

Each center will zoom in on industry-specific topics designed to: 

  • Showcase the innovative capabilities that AI can unlock.
  • Provide guidance on how to adopt it responsibly and efficiently.
  • Provide specialist training to help develop specific skills to manage AI effectively.

Training will be offered without charge to eligible businesses to upskill small enterprises without delay. Companies can apply for this program by submitting an application, which will close by January 29, 2024.

“Harnessing the power of AI will enhance productivity, helping to crack one of the biggest challenges facing Australia,” says industry and science minister Ed Husic.

World’s view on AI regulations

In a historic move and an unprecedented 37-hour negotiation, the world agreed on the first comprehensive laws to regulate AI. Earlier this month, the European Parliament and EU member states reached an agreement. This puts the EU ahead of the US and China in the race to AI frontiers. 

Like the scramble to be the first to get investment, so is the race for responsible use of AI. 

There are concerns among workers that AI would impact job opportunities, while others are worried about the potential threat to life as it’s rapidly evolving.

The Guardian reports that the European Parliament secured a ban on real-time surveillance and biometric technologies, including emotional recognition. Except for: “It would mean police would be able to use the invasive technologies only in the event of an unexpected threat of a terrorist attack, the need to search for victims and in the prosecution of serious crime.”

As technology undergoes rapid advancements, generating enthusiasm among innovators and entrepreneurs, concerns about responsible development also arise. While some nations strive to lead in AI development, others must still catch up and enhance their training capabilities.

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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