Deloitte, 4 out of 10 Italian companies will invest in Artificial Intelligence in the next 3 years

Deloitte’s latest research on Artificial Intelligence in Italy previewed during the Innovation Summit held at the MAXXI in Rome

One year after the launch of ChatGpt, the topic of Artificial Intelligence continues to ignite the debate in public opinion and on company boards. But what Italian citizens think and what companies in our country predict on the theme of the year? Divided between curiosity and fear, Italians hope that AI will find application especially in the medical field (38%) and in bureaucratic simplification (31%). There are also those who do not rule out “making friends” with an artificial intelligence (41%), while many would find it “disturbing” (28%). And while the public discussion continues, Italian companies are also starting to equip themselves to seize the opportunities of this technology: 59% have already experimented with some AI tool and 40% plan to invest in the next three years. 35% are already ready to implement AI, while 53% look to the medium term, trusting in the reduction of the costs of this technology, which today are still prohibitive for the majority (66%) of Italian companies.

These are some of the evidences oflatest Deloitte research on Artificial Intelligence in Italy, presented in preview during the Innovation Summit held at the MAXXI in Rome in the presence of Enrico Maria Bagnasco, CEO of Sparkle, Paolo Benanti, professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Maria Chiara Carrozza, president of the Cnr, Tom Davenport, distinguished professor at MIT and at Babson College, Stefano De Alessandri, CEO of Ansa, Luciano Fontana, director of Corriere Della Sera, Barbara Gallavotti, journalist and science communicator, Alessandra Poggiani, general director of Cineca, Cristina Rossello, advisor to the Minister of University and Research Anna Maria Bernini, Adolfo Urso, Minister of Business and Made in Italy, and Jaap Zuiderveld, vice president EMEA of Nvidia. The full Deloitte report will be presented in January 2024.

“To guarantee the ethical and safe development of Artificial Intelligence, it is necessary to build a public-private collaboration capable of guaranteeing governance based on compliance with ESG criteria. An absolute priority that we underline as Deloitte, but which also clearly emerges from our research: according to 70% of the companies interviewed, collaboration between public and private actors will be essential to outline a fair and effective regulatory framework”, comments Fabio Pompei, CEO of Deloitte Central Mediterranean (Dcm).

According to Andrea Poggi, Innovation Leader of Deloitte Central Mediterranean (Dcm), “to better manage the revolution triggered by AI and fully reap its benefits, it is important to go beyond ‘the artificial’ and invest in achieving a form of Intelligence : Symbiotic Intelligence, in which the relationship between human intelligence and artificial intelligence enters a new phase, a human-governed joint venture that allows us to exploit the best qualities of both forms of intelligence creating positive value for society while advancing towards an ethical and sustainable future. That of Symbiotic Intelligence is a real strategic approach and also a concrete modus operandi, which envisages precise actions on the part of the various actors of our socio-economic system to achieve it and therefore best face this extraordinary revolution by reducing its the risks”.

The creation of Symbiotic Intelligence requires an effort from the entire ecosystem along three main lines: awareness and training, a commitment that Deloitte carries out with the Deloitte Ai Institute, a research institute on AI that will be launched in Italy in the next few weeks, and with the Ai Demystification Program, a training program to support over 12 thousand Deloitte people in Italy; governance, based on few but strong ethical rules, to be supported with the adoption of industrial and development policies. This is why Deloitte has developed and adopted ‘Trustworthy Ai’, a framework that promotes responsible, reliable and regulatory compliant AI adoption; the planning of symbiotic solutions ‘by design’ which must always be carried out by multidisciplinary teams and preceded by a serious ex-ante evaluation of all the impacts of AI adoption.

The majority of companies interviewed (59%) already use Artificial Intelligence solutions today. Among the most common are those for process automation, optimization and management (38%), data analysis (16%), risk analysis and management (15%). The use of chatbots (13%), the use for employee training (8%) and applications for the production of text and/or images are less frequent, used by only 3% of companies despite the great media hype of which they have been protagonists in recent months. Only in 41% of cases have companies never made any use of AI applications.

Despite the numerous uncertainties that still concern AI developments and its regulation, over 40% of Italian companies declare that they will increase investments in AI in the next three years, focusing on making data management more efficient (49%), development products and services (45%) and software systems (41%). 10% of investments, however, could be used to adapt human capital, while 5% could lead to M&A operations such as acquisitions, joint ventures, partnerships and strategic alliances.

What are the benefits that companies aim to achieve with AI? 45% expect greater efficiency and productivity, while 40% think of a reduction in company costs. Smaller but significant shares focus on enabling new business models (23%) and the ability to gain responsiveness to external changes (20%), as well as greater control and effectiveness in risk control (20%). Among the company areas that could obtain the greatest added value are operations (49%), administration and management control (34%), IT infrastructures and systems (30%), the sales sector (17%) and the R&D and innovation sector (13%).

According to the companies interviewed, the barriers that hinder the corporate implementation of Ai technologies are the lack of technical knowledge and skills (40%), technological incompatibility with current systems (37%) and the lack of adequate financial resources (31 %), which in the case of companies in the South reaches 47%. Other obstacles reported by companies are the difficulty in collecting and managing data (27%) and the degree of maturity of the reference market/sector (17%).

While the global media debate is very heated, the actual implementation of AI in the Italian economic fabric proceeds amidst many uncertainties. Thus, 71% of companies believe that the time horizon for the diffusion of artificial intelligence is long-term and 66% point out that in the short term most AI technologies and innovations are cost-prohibitive for most of Italian companies. However, 53% are confident that the cost of AI will tend to progressively reduce thanks to economies of scale, synergies, gains in efficiency and productivity.

Seven out of ten companies agree that public-private collaboration will be essential to outline a fair and effective regulatory framework on AI. Furthermore, 68% agree that to ensure ethical and responsible development it will be essential to regulate Ai technology from the early stages of design. But how can we guarantee the ethical development of AI? 59% underline the importance of people’s skills within companies, while 33% indicate the training of researchers and AI algorithm developers on ethical issues as a priority. 31%, however, emphasize the importance of greater transparency on the AI’s operating mechanisms.

Interviewed on the areas of application of AI for environmental sustainability, companies demonstrate the greatest interest in solutions that concern energy efficiency (70%), the reduction of pollution (57%), the circular economy (41% ) and the prevention of natural disasters through predictive tools (22%). According to 20%, the use of AI could serve the development of renewable energy sources, while 8% underline its potential in protecting biodiversity.

What are the applications of Artificial Intelligence that are entering people’s daily lives? Simultaneous translation is the most widespread: 43% of those interviewed use it and 36% think they will continue to use it. Great success also for voice assistants: 40% use them and 29% will continue to use them. Real-time traffic forecasts are also very useful, as they are adopted by 37% and will continue to be used by one in three citizens. 25% have tried text generation applications, such as ChatGpt and Bard, and 15% will continue to use them. Among the still ‘niche’ applications are autonomous vehicle driving (13% have tried it, 4% will continue), the creation of artistic and multimedia content (11% have tried it, 5% will continue) and those for financial services (used by 10%, will continue to be used by 5%). When asked: “Would you make friends with an artificial intelligence?”, 28% declared it “impossible” and “disturbing” to become familiar with a technology, “even more so with human features”; 31% say “probably not”, explaining that they are not interested in becoming familiar with a technological tool; 22% are optimistic, especially if AI “had human connotations”; finally there are 19% of enthusiasts who respond with a firm yes, regardless of the form that the AI ​​would take.

When asked which sectors should be considered priorities in the development of new products or services, Italians place their hopes above all in the medical field (38%). And among those who bet on AI for the health sector, 57% imagine using it for monitoring health status and detecting attention signals, 52% think it will be useful for pharmaceutical-health research, 47% hypothesize a better access to prevention services or personalized healthcare, while 41% hope for diagnosis support through data analysis. Also significant is the indication on the public services sector and the interaction with the Public Administration (31%), which thanks to AI could be improved through automation and bureaucratic simplification. In third place (30%), however, there is the indication of a possible use applied to “telecommunications, media and entertainment”.

When questioned on their level of knowledge of Artificial Intelligence, Italians are divided into four categories: the “great connoisseurs” (17%) are those who claim to know AI applications and products well, as well as the underlying technology; 19% would define themselves as “heavy users”, i.e. they frequently use Ai products and services in daily life and are interested in using future developments in the sector; “non-users” are 22% and declare little use and interest in AI; 42%, however, express fear or concern about the future risks that this technology poses.