The future of Artificial Intelligence

Digital Brain on Blue background by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


26 August 2020

By Sumitra Krishnan, AusPayNet Innovation Analyst

According to the 2020 Deloitte Insights: State of AI in the Enterprise, using AI technology is regarded as key to market leadership and staying ahead of competitors.

This study involved 2737 executives from organisations across nine countries, including Australia, that have adopted AI technologies. Key findings include:

  • 73% believe AI is “very” or “critically” important to their business
  • 53% spent more than US$20 million over the past year on AI-related technology and talent
  • 71% expect to increase their AI investment in the next year by an average of 26%
  • 75% expect organisational transformation, and 61% industry transformation within three years

AI applications are already being used in a wide range of industries. For example, many organisations in financial services are implementing intelligent solutions such as advanced analytics, process automation and chatbots, amongst others.

AI in Payments

In payments, AI presents unique opportunities to streamline customer experiences, tailor service offerings and develop new service models. The 2018 World Economic Forum report: The New Physics of Financial Services outlines some examples of AI use cases in payments:

  • Authentication practices. Facial recognition and voice are examples of AI applications currently used to authenticate payments. These applications provide a streamlined customer experience that automates the purchasing process.
  • Automated decision-making. Payment providers use payments data to provide machine learning-based merchant analytics “as a service”. By combining payment providers’ unique datasets with machine learning capabilities, merchants are able to gain targeted insights into purchasing behaviour.
  • Fraud detection. AI can be used alongside an organisation’s existing fraud protection systems to detect fraudulent transactions online by analysing transaction patterns and detecting anomalies in transaction data.

Risks associated with AI

Alongside the benefits, AI also brings challenges and risks. In the Deloitte Insights survey, executives identified some areas of concern as:

  • Ethics. Clearly defined ethics are needed to guide organisations to design and develop AI initiatives according to a set of value principles.
  • Lack of transparency. When AI systems are used to make decisions, it may be difficult to unravel the reasons behind a specific course of action.
  • New or changing regulations. Lack of standard regulations or hard regulations could hamper innovation and competitive advantage.
  • Liability. Organisations need to determine who should bear the risk for decisions and actions made by AI systems.

The concerns provide important considerations that can be used as guardrails to mitigate the risk of unfair outcomes.

Continued investment in AI

Global investment in AI continues to grow. Since 2017, 14 of the world’s most advanced economies have announced over AU$86 billion in AI-focused programs and activities. In 2019, CSIRO Data61 published the AI Technology Roadmap: Artificial Intelligence: Solving Problems, growing the economy and improving our quality of life setting out how Australia can capture the full potential of AI. The roadmap highlights focus areas to help advance the development and adoption of AI technologies in Australia. It also outlines the importance of action for Australia to leverage on existing capabilities to solve national problems. Some AI experts argue that Australia needs to do more in this space to keep up with other countries. For example:

  • China's New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan aims to cultivate a domestic AI industry worth US$150 billion (CNY 1 trillion) by 2030. 
  • Singapore established a national program called AI Singapore in 2017 to invest up to S$150 million (AU$153 million) in AI over a five-year period. 
  • Canada is mid-way through its five-year C$125 million (AU$132 million) Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, through which it attracted attention thanks to the strength of its growing AI talent pool.

Investment in AI is crucial to ensure Australia is not left behind in the AI race. As Anton van den Hengel, Director of the Australian Institute of Machine Learning at the University of Adelaide commented, “AI technology is coming. If we don't invest, we're going to have to import it from overseas…this is a goldrush where first movers get the data and, if you miss it you can’t go back.”

Clearly Australian financial institutions see benefit in investing, with an announcement last month committing US$10m (AU$13.9m) to finance local fintechs and the development of emerging artificial intelligence businesses here in Australia. Additionally, the Victorian Government has also recently pledged AU$1.5million to the establishment of Australia’s first accelerator and investment fund for AI scaleups. The program, set to roll out by end 2020, will help facilitate and support the growth of local AI start-ups.

Standards for AI

As AI technology integrates further in society, standards for AI can help address and mitigate the concerns related to inclusion, security and privacy. Standards in AI can help build trust and define safety and security requirements so AI innovation can be wholly embraced. Well-implemented AI with appropriate standards can ensure greater security and confidence for all users. Additionally, it will also better support interoperability of AI systems both domestically and internationally.

On a global scale, Australia is a founding member of the world’s first multilateral forum dedicated to AI - the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), along with 14 other nations. The aim of this international initiative is to provide guidance for the responsible development and use of AI globally, grounded in five main areas: human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth.

Locally, Standards Australia released its AI Standards Roadmap: Making Australia’s Voice Heard earlier this year. The roadmap examines global AI standards and the opportunity for Australia to shape responsible AI deployment. It highlights the need for an AI Standards Hub, which would serve as a collaborative forum where participants can come together to identify and discuss different approaches to governing AI in Australia. This is an opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate, learn and produce documents that attest to Australian expertise and experience in AI. According to Adrian O’Connell, CEO of Standards Australia, “AI is an exciting technology with a growing future in the Australian and global market. Through standards we believe we can help build confidence and safe-guard against the irresponsible use of this technology and its data.” AusPayNet is working with Standards Australia on this initiative, and is in discussion with its members on how they can contribute to the standards hub.