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The digital divide caused by generative AI

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

New research indicates that the United Kingdom is at risk of witnessing a growing gap between organizations that have embraced new digital technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and those that have not.

According to a survey conducted by the Digital Futures at Work Research Center (Digit), a mere 36% of UK employers have made investments in AI-enabled technologies, such as industrial robots, chatbots, smart assistants, and cloud computing, within the past five years. The survey, representative of the nation as a whole, was carried out between November 2021 and June 2022, with a subsequent phase currently underway.

Lagging behind

Alarmingly, the study reveals that only 10% of employers who have yet to invest in AI-enabled technologies have plans to do so within the next two years.

Furthermore, the newly acquired data sheds light on an escalating skills predicament. Despite 75% of employers encountering difficulties in recruiting individuals possessing the requisite skills, less than 10% of them anticipate the need to invest in digital skills training in the coming years. Astonishingly, nearly 60% of employers disclosed that none of their employees had undergone formal digital skills training within the past year.

“A mix of hope, speculation, and hype is fueling a runaway narrative that the adoption of new AI-enabled digital technologies will rapidly transform the UK’s labor market, boosting productivity and growth. These hopes are often accompanied by fears about the consequences for jobs and even of existential risk,” the researchers explain.

“However, our findings suggest there is a need to focus on a different policy challenge. The workplace AI revolution is not happening quite yet. Policymakers will need to address both low employer investment in digital technologies and low investment in digital skills, if the UK economy is to realize the potential benefits of digital transformation.”

Key drivers

The survey highlights that the primary drivers behind investing in AI-enabled technologies were centered around enhancing operational efficiency, productivity gains, and improving the quality of products and services. Conversely, the decision not to invest in AI was primarily influenced by factors such as the perceived irrelevance of AI to the business activities, concerns related to broader business risks, and the specific skill sets required.

Notably, the survey did not find substantial evidence to support the notion that investing in AI-enabled technology leads to job losses. On the contrary, organizations that embraced digital transformation were more inclined to have experienced an increase in employment over the preceding five-year period.

With policymakers endeavoring to stay abreast of the rapid advancements in technology, the researchers emphasize the importance of focusing on factual evidence regarding the role of AI in the workplace. By adhering to a fact-based approach, policymakers can make informed decisions that align with the realities of AI implementation.

Article source: The Digital Divide Caused By Generative AI.

Header image source: Arlington Research on Unsplash.

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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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