How will AI improve employment in 2020

Artificial intelligence is gradually making headway in companies

  • Two thirds consider AI to be the most important future technology
  • So far, 8 percent use AI applications, and every fourth company wants to invest
  • Bitkom President Berg: "AI needs even more momentum"

Berlin, April 21, 2021- Artificial intelligence is considered a crucial future technology in the German economy and more and more companies see AI as an opportunity for their own business. The proportion of those who use AI applications is increasing accordingly; every fourth company (24 percent) is planning to invest in AI. These are the results of a representative survey of more than 600 companies from all industries on behalf of the digital association Bitkom, which was presented today. Accordingly, more than two thirds (69 percent) say that AI is the most important future technology. Only around one in four companies (26 percent), on the other hand, believe that AI is overestimated and just hype. More and more companies are also seeing advantages for themselves in AI. For 62 percent, artificial intelligence offers opportunities for their own business, a year ago it was only 55 percent. The proportion of those who see risks above all has decreased from 28 to 23 percent. Every ninth company (11 percent, 2020: 14 percent) believes that AI has no influence on its own business. However, the number of companies using AI is not growing at the same pace. AI applications are currently used in 8 percent of companies, a year ago it was 6 percent. The proportion of companies planning or discussing the deployment has risen more sharply from 22 to 30 percent. The proportion of companies in which AI is not an issue has also fallen - from 71 percent in 2020 to 59 percent now. “From autonomous driving to medical diagnosis, from support with customer inquiries to quality control in production: the possible uses of artificial intelligence can be found in all industries. The fact that the use of AI is increasingly seen as a must and at the same time as an opportunity in the German economy is a good sign. Now it has to be a matter of bringing AI into business practice with even more momentum, ”says Bitkom President Achim Berg. "Anyone who has recognized how important artificial intelligence is today and especially how it will be in the future should invest now."

There is a lack of money, staff and time for AI

Companies that are not currently dealing with artificial intelligence cite a lack of staff (49 percent), lack of time (47 percent) and lack of financial resources (46 percent) as the most important reasons. 4 out of 10 companies (44 percent) want to wait and see where the use of AI makes sense in other companies. 40 percent do not have the necessary data for the use of AI, 38 percent feel unsettled by legal uncertainties. The application rarely fails due to a lack of use cases in their own company (17 percent) and suitable AI tools (13 percent) or because the companies are currently dealing with other future technologies (4 percent). “No people, no money, no time - these shouldn't be reasons against AI. The future-oriented allocation of resources is the top management task. Artificial intelligence has to be on the agenda in every company, ”says Berg.

Companies see a variety of benefits from AI

In principle, companies see a wide range of advantages from AI, for example through the optimization of processes. 44 percent expect faster and more precise problem analyzes through AI, 35 percent accelerated processes and 30 percent a lower consumption of resources, which would also benefit the environment. AI also offers many advantages when it comes to employees. 39 percent expect the avoidance of human errors in everyday work, 31 percent hope that AI systems will provide expert knowledge that would otherwise not be available and 28 percent assume that thanks to AI support, employees can concentrate on more important tasks. And finally, AI will also change the business model in many ways. 21 percent expect the improvement of existing products and services, 17 percent even expect completely new offers thanks to AI. In contrast, only every tenth company (10 percent) wants to save costs in this way. “There is no single reason to use artificial intelligence in a company. AI is a basic technology that opens up a multitude of new possibilities, ”says Berg.

AI is already being used in numerous areas of the company

Most often, those companies that already use AI use the corresponding technologies for personalized advertising (71 percent). 64 percent use AI to improve internal processes in production and maintenance, 63 percent in customer service, for example for the automated answering of inquiries. Around every second company uses AI to analyze customer behavior in sales (53 percent) or across departments for texts such as reports or translations (50 percent). In accounting, 44 percent use AI, for example for automated bookings, 43 percent rely on AI for management support, for example when developing strategies. 39 percent have introduced AI-based tools in their IT department and 35 percent in logistics, for example for better route planning. AI is used less often in research and development (25 percent) or in the human resources department (21 percent), for example to pre-select applicants. 18 percent use AI to uncover risks in the company, for example in controlling. Almost no one (1 percent) uses AI applications in the legal and tax departments.

Small businesses in particular are reluctant to invest in AI

Companies are reluctant to invest in artificial intelligence in the current year. Just 8 percent of all companies want to invest in AI in 2021, 16 percent have planned to do so in 2022 or the following years. 16 percent have already invested in AI technology in the past. But more than half (57 percent) have not yet spent any money on AI - and have no plans to do so in the future. Small companies are much more reluctant to do this than large ones. In 2021, only 6 percent of companies with 20 to 99 employees want to invest in AI, for companies with 100 to 499 employees it is 15 percent and for large companies it is more than one in five (23 percent for companies with 500 to 1,999 employees, 21 Percent from 2,000 employees). At the same time, only 14 percent of smaller companies have invested in AI in the past, for those with 100 to 499 employees it is 23 percent, for larger companies with 500 to 1,999 employees 33 percent and even 41 percent for companies with 2,000 or more employees. “The corona pandemic certainly contributes to the current reluctance to invest in AI. At the same time, we are all experiencing that companies that have already invested in digitization in the past can get through the current crisis better. This should be understood as a task for everyone who is currently reluctant to use AI, ”said Berg.

Only in large companies do their own teams promote the use of AI

In two-thirds (67 percent) of companies that already use AI, plan to use it, or at least discuss it, the IT department is promoting the use of AI. In one in five (20 percent) there are independent AI teams or an AI department, in 15 percent committed individuals, in 14 percent interdisciplinary project teams and in 13 percent the management or the board of directors. A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is in charge of AI topics in only 1 percent. The picture differs significantly depending on the size of the company. In small companies with up to 99 employees, the IT department dominates as an AI driver with 71 percent, while in companies with 500 to 1,999 employees it is only 44 percent and in large companies with 2,000 employees or more it is only 24 percent. Conversely, independent AI teams are only active in 15 percent of small companies, but in 40 percent of companies with 500 to 1,999 employees and even in two thirds (65 percent) of large companies with more than 2,000 employees.

Only 3 percent of the companies that already use AI or are planning or discussing it develop and program AI solutions independently and without support. Around every second (48 percent) rely on external partners, almost exclusively from Germany (71 percent) and the USA (29 percent). 6 out of 10 companies (57 percent) buy or rent AI applications from external providers, most of whom come from Germany (46 percent) and the USA (38 percent). And 12 percent of companies state that they use freely available AI applications, for example from the open source area. In around every third case (31 percent) the solution comes from Germany, and every fourth (25 percent) comes from the USA. "Even if the development of technologies for AI is being driven forward strongly in the USA and China: German providers play an important role in the market for AI applications," says Berg.

The USA is ahead in an international comparison

One in ten companies (10 percent) is currently saying that Germany leads the way when it comes to artificial intelligence. This puts Germany just ahead of China (9 percent), but well behind the USA (39 percent). In 2030, 49 percent see the USA in the lead, 20 percent China and only 8 percent Germany. "Business and politics must work together so that we can maintain and expand our current good position in artificial intelligence," said Berg. “The use of artificial intelligence will also change core industries in which Germany still has a top position worldwide, for example in automotive and mechanical engineering. If we want to strengthen the pillars of German industry, we must also strengthen AI. "

With a view to the legislative proposal of the EU Commission for Artificial Intelligence expected for today, Berg warned that the planned testing and certification of AI should be concentrated on use in real high-risk applications. “We need safe and trustworthy AI in Germany and Europe - but we cannot lump everyone and everything together. With every new regulation, we must therefore ensure that it matches the existing regulations on the one hand, but that the expense incurred by companies remains proportionate and that it prevents unnecessary innovations, 'says Berg. “It is important that politicians quickly create clarity and legal certainty for companies. Uncertainty and lengthy coordination processes would delay or prevent urgently needed investments. "

Only around every fourth company (28 percent) is of the opinion that the federal government's AI strategy is sufficient to prepare the economy and society for AI. A year ago, at 38 percent, there was measurably more support for the federal government's AI policy. At the same time, only 33 percent (2020: 39 percent) believe that Germany is among the world's best in AI research. And three quarters (74 percent) demand that more AI experts should be trained at universities (2020: 69 percent).

Artificial intelligence: desire for support and exchange

So that the use of AI can be advanced in their own company, three quarters (77 percent) would like more financial support for AI projects. But in addition to money, know-how and information play an important role. 60 percent would like to have a more intensive exchange with companies that are already more advanced with AI, 54 percent want help with the legal and ethical assessment of the use of AI and 48 percent need information about marketable AI solutions. Four out of 10 companies would benefit from external evaluations or labels for AI applications (44 percent) and the availability of AI experts on the job market (43 percent). Every third company (34 percent) calls for the expansion of AI research activities, for example at universities, and every fourth (27 percent) calls for better exchange with universities and research institutions. Every fifth company (21 percent) assumes that road shows and conferences on specific AI applications could advance the deployment.

Methodological note: The information is based on a survey that Bitkom Research carried out on behalf of the Bitkom digital association. 603 companies with 20 or more employees in Germany were surveyed by telephone from February to the end of March 2021. The survey is representative.