Mario ToneguzziCanada is rapidly falling behind other countries in artificial intelligence (AI) adoption and demand. And that’s putting Canadian talent and future competitiveness at risk, according to a report released on Wednesday by Deloitte.

A Deloitte survey said only 16 per cent of all businesses reported using AI technologies – a number that has remained stagnant over the last four years.

Deloitte is a leading business in audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries.

Deloitte’s report – Canada’s AI imperative: From predictions to prosperity – was issued by its recently-launched Omnia AI practice.

“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.

Shelby Austin

Shelby Austin

“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.

“Clearly, the lack of knowledge and distrust of AI has negatively affected adoption. 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.”

Deloitte said that if Canada continues on its current path, the country risks 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.

The Deloitte report found:

  • only four per cent of Canadians surveyed feel confident enough to explain what AI is and how it works;
  • 86 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.

“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.”

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