Businesses worried use of AI outpacing regulation

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Large numbers of businesses are concerned about the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a survey by cloud accounting company Xero.

The company commissioned the survey of 3000 small businesses in six countries, including New Zealand, to gauge attitudes and approaches to the use of AI.

The survey showed 78 percent of the New Zealand respondents were concerned that AI development and adoption was outpacing regulation.

About half of local firms were most concerned about sensitive information disclosure and data privacy, with 44 percent also seeing worker displacement as the biggest ethical challenges.

But the survey also showed about a third of respondents looking for ways to use AI, with levels of investment and experimentation, although about a third also were not taking any steps to be involved.

Xero chief executive Sukhinder Singh Cassidy was not surprised the survey was a mixed bag.

“On the one hand you can see that they are excited about some of the capabilities … but there’s also a reticence where people are worried about whether or not regulation is needed. Four out of five small businesses are concerned that maybe regulation’s not pacing at the same level as technology itself.”

But she said there was already a high level of use of AI, and a trust in using it with sensitive company and customer data.

The company was rolling out product upgrades with greater use of AI at its annual signature Xerocon event in Sydney on Wednesday, offering such features as quicker information gathering on current and new customers, invoice processing, reduction of duplication, and specialist products for hospitality businesses, and advisors.

Singh Cassidy said Xero was mindful of the need to educate and assist clients with AI concerns, but was “balancing innovation with safeguards”.

Asked if Xero was in the shape it wanted after laying off up to 800 workers worldwide, Singh Cassidy said: “We feel that we have got the company in what we call, smarter, faster and stronger position financially, in order to pursue a balanced agenda of growth and profitability.”

It was a “very hard and painful” decision, but the company was in a better position because of it, she said.




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