Canada is rapidly falling behind other countries in artificial intelligence (AI) adoption and demand, which is putting Canadian talent and future competitiveness at risk, according to Deloitte’s latest report. With only 16 per cent of all businesses reporting using AI technologies – a number that has remained stagnant over the last four years – Deloitte examined the reasons why businesses are failing to use AI to solve business problems. The study found that both consumers’ and businesses’ lack of understanding, lack of trust, lack of awareness, and an inability by companies to scale small pilots were barriers limiting adoption.

Deloitte’s report – Canada’s AI imperative: From predictions to prosperity – was issued by its recently launched Omnia AI practice. The report highlights both that true leadership requires demand for AI and that not enough businesses are investing in AI, given its transformative potential. It also found that if Canada continues on its current path, we risk providing talent, research, and startups that will feed the growth of other countries – such as the United States and China – without reaping the benefits ourselves.

AI is no longer on the horizon. It’s here, and it is already having a profound impact on every aspect of our lives,” said Shelby Austin, Managing Partner of Omnia AI. “AI can and will transform decision-making, drive efficiencies, improve customer experiences, and power sustained, profitable growth, but Canada is getting left behind. Canadian businesses need to step up, start adopting AI in a more meaningful way, and create demand for technologies that are already unlocking potential for other countries.”

As part of Deloitte’s efforts to advance both conversation and action among business and government leaders about the most pressing issues facing our country, the firm examined why Canada is failing to lead when it comes to AI. It found the following:

  • Only four per cent of Canadians surveyed feel confident enough to explain what AI is and how it works.
  • Eighty-six per cent of Canadians said they don’t use AI-powered tools or devices; given that 76 per cent of Canadians use a smartphone that has virtual assistant programs and mapping software, there is a disconnect between what Canadians know about AI and the reality of AI technology adoption.
  • Only eight per cent of Canadian companies surveyed plan to increase their spending by more than 20 per cent in the upcoming year – 40 per cent fewer than the global average.

"Clearly, the lack of knowledge and distrust of AI has negatively affected adoption," said Austin. "And yet, Canada has a lot to be proud of when it comes to AI – we're an AI talent and research leader because of institutions like the Vector Institute, the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII). We also have robust regional technology hubs that are attracting top talent, but we need to collectively look to the path ahead and develop an AI prosperity strategy that ensures Canada continues to remain the best place to live and work."

To accurately assess the status quo in Canada and to inform the path forward, Deloitte surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians and 2,500 businesses from around the world between July and September 2018. Three surveys were conducted, each targeting a specific group:

  • Citizen survey: To measure Canadian consumers’ understanding, expectations, and beliefs about AI, Deloitte surveyed 1,019 Canadians from across the country. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  • Canadian business survey: Deloitte asked a panel of 769 Canadian businesses about their uptake of emerging technologies, including AI. The margin of error is +/- 3.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  • Global State of AI in Enterprise survey: Deloitte also surveyed leaders of 300 Canadian and 1,600 international large companies that are aggressively adopting AI. These companies had to have reported global annual revenues of at least US$50 million and have at least 500 employees worldwide. The margin of error is +/- 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With an understanding of current challenges and opportunities, Deloitte’s report outlines the need for a shared vision of what it will take to maximize the economic and social gains that can be realized through the effective use of AI across business, government, and society. Canada’s national interest lies in supporting fair competition on a global playing field with common standards that support innovation and uphold humanistic values, while also addressing concerns such as privacy issues. The report notes there is a critical role for both government and businesses to play, with businesses being deeply involved in AI education if Canada is truly going to step up and lead.

“To become an international leader, Canada first needs to foster a top-tier AI ecosystem at home, demonstrate true leadership to create demand, and develop strong public policies that provide the protections citizens expect and deserve,” said Austin. “With a clear AI prosperity strategy, Canada can strengthen our competitiveness at home and on the world stage, and we want to partner with business leaders to drive that change.”

Canada’s AI imperative: From predictions to prosperity is part of a series of reports under the banner of Canada at 175, which presents Deloitte’s perspective on the future of the country.

Source: Deloitte & Touche