Procurement, integration and adaptation are biggest barriers to AI, study finds

By on 29/10/2019
Government leaders across Europe are positive about the impact of AI but face significant barriers in deploying AI technologies, including difficulties integrating them into their back-office operations. (Image courtesy: GDSTeam/flickr).

The greatest obstacles to the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in the public sector lie in building procurement capabilities, integrating AI with existing systems, and adapting systems to specific delivery environments, according to a study by global professional services company Accenture.

The study — based on a survey of 300 government leaders and senior IT decision-makers in Finland, France, Germany, Norway and the UK — found that while respondents are optimistic and enthusiastic about the impact of AI on government operations and services, there are significant barriers to deploying them.

More than two-thirds (71%) cited difficulties in procuring the right AI building blocks, notably data integrity and processing capabilities; nearly six in seven (84%) cited challenges in adapting AI logic and reasoning to their industry context; and more than three-quarters (81%) said they experience difficulties in integrating AI technologies into their back-office operations. In addition, more than two-fifths (42%) have security-related concerns around the use of AI, and almost one-third (31%) said they lack the necessary talent and skills to scale their AI investments.

“AI is unlike any recent waves of technology change, it is truly transformational. That means it is complex to deploy and requires having solid foundations in place to ensure proper data strategy, governance and delivery success,” said Bernard Le Masson, who leads Accenture’s consulting practice for its health & public service clients.

Lack of internal collaboration and leadership oversight

One of the other challenges to the deployment of AI is lack of collaboration within public bodies, the study found. The majority of respondents (81%) cited a medium to very high risk of AI deployments being duplicated within their organisation or within lower levels of government, due to a lack of internal collaboration and leadership oversight. However, most respondents believe that their organisation’s leadership is supportive of AI projects: only one-fifth (21%) reported a lack of support from the top for such initiatives.

“Only with a new operating model that takes an organisation-wide approach to deployments, undertaken in collaboration with an entire ecosystem of stakeholders, can the full potential of AI deployments be achieved,” Le Masson said.

Despite the challenges, 90% of executives believe that AI will have a pronounced impact on their organisations over the coming years.  

On the positives

Increased efficiencies, cost or time savings, and enhanced productivity were cited as the greatest anticipated benefits from AI investments. In terms of the operational areas for AI deployments, customer service and fraud and risk management were the two most favoured, cited by 25% and 23% of respondents respectively.  

Respondents in healthcare and social services expressed the most optimism about their ability to scale at least 10 AI use cases in the coming year, with nearly half the respondents in each sector (46% and 49% respectively) saying they expected to deliver 10 or more AI projects. Of those surveyed, 86% said that their organisation plans to increase its spending on AI in 2020.

Those in the defence and revenue sectors were the most positive about the impact of AI on their organisation, with more than a quarter (27% and 26% respectively) reporting that their organisation is already investing at least US$50m in AI annually and intends to continue that level of spending.

Respondents’ spending on AI differs from country to country, with the UK appearing to spend the most. One-fifth of UK public service respondents said their organisation is investing more than US$50m in AI annually, and nearly half (47%) said their organisation is investing between US$15m and US$50m in AI.

“Our findings indicate a need for greater education around AI technologies to ensure that organisations investing in AI do so efficiently and responsibly, with a deep understanding of the impact the technology will have on their organisation and workforce,” said Accenture’s managing director Gabriel Bellenger.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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