Editorial

Accenture: European governments love AI – but are struggling to harness it

Still, vast majority – 90% – believe AI will have a big impact on their organisations over the coming years, and an equally high proportion, 86%, said they plan to increase AI spending next year

Posted 29 October 2019 by

European public sector leaders Europe are optimistic about the potential for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in government – but face challenges implementing the technology, according to a new Accenture study.

That doesn’t mean they’re not spending, though – with 40% of leaders recently contacted by the group saying they’re committing between $5m and $15m to such work.

20% of UK public service representatives in the study said their organisation is investing more than $50m in AI annually – and nearly half (47%) said it’s more like $15m and $50m

More than half, 63%, meanwhile, report completing between just five and 10 AI-related projects over the last year.

The report, released last week, is based on a survey of 300 government leaders and senior IT decision-makers in Finland, France Germany, Norway and the UK.

The consultancy’s researchers found that the vast majority – 90% – of respondents believe AI will have a big impact on their organisations over the coming years, and an equally high proportion, 86%, said their organisation plans to increase its spending on AI next year.

In terms of use cases for such investment, customer service and fraud and risk management are the two operational areas favoured most for public service AI deployments, as identified by 25% and 23% of respondents, respectively.

In addition, those responding to the poll most often cited increased efficiencies, cost or time savings, and enhanced productivity as the greatest anticipated benefits from their AI investments.

Nonetheless, despite the support and enthusiasm for AI deployments, government respondents said their organisations are experiencing systemic challenges to delivering successful AI projects.

Specifically, 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 experienced challenges integrating AI technologies into their back-office operations.

At the same time, 42% have security-related concerns around the use of AI and almost a third, 31%, said they “lacked the necessary talent and skills” to scale their AI investments.

Commenting on the results, Bernard Le Masson, who leads Accenture’s Consulting practice for its Health & Public Service clients, noted, “AI is unlike any recent waves of technology change [as] 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. As AI spending accelerates and delivery expectations increase, governments must address the systemic challenges and build the necessary foundations that are underpinned by trust to maximise the technology’s potential and ensure its successful deployment.

“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,” he claimed.

Intriguingly, the UK is significantly ahead of the other countries surveyed on current and anticipated AI spending.

For instance, 20% of UK public service representatives in the study said their organisation is investing more than $50m in AI annually – and nearly half (47%) said it’s more like $15m and $50m, the highest figures among the five countries surveyed.