2024 is expected to see a marked uplift towards AI and GenAI adoption - but many wary of its ability to build trust

  • Press Release
  • June 25, 2024
  • However, the majority of AI activity is still in the assessment and piloting space rather than in full scale deployment.    

  • Majority of the view that GenAI will have positive impact on Irish economy and businesses

  • Overwhelming majority (91%) believe that GenAI will increase cybersecurity risks

  • Assessing the return on AI related investment continues to be an area of concern  - more work to do on tracking and realising value

  • Majority of organisations recognise the need to build new skills to take advantage of the AI opportunity 

  • Progress on the establishment of AI governance remains slow and will require focus in the context of the EU AI Act

PwC Ireland today publishes the results of its latest GenAI Business Leaders Survey following its inaugural launch in November 2023. The survey, having nearly 100 participating Irish business leaders, aims to highlight how AI and GenAI (GenerativeAI) are impacting Irish businesses, the latest AI and GenAI trends and where the priorities lie. Key findings are set out below:

GenAI to have positive impact on Ireland’s economy and businesses

Irish business leaders continue to recognise GenAI’s potential to benefit the economy and their organisations. Over three-quarters (77%) of Irish business leaders expect GenAI to have a positive impact on Ireland’s economy in the years ahead (2023: 74%).  

Over eight out of ten (83%) expect GenAI to have a positive or transformative impact on their businesses in the next five years, up from 74% last year.  Expected positive impacts include: increased efficiencies in their employees time at work (88%); significantly change the way their organisation will create and deliver value (83%), increased efficiencies in their own time at work (79%) and improve the quality of their organisation’s products and services (65%). However only about 1 in 4 (26%) organisations can point to realised operational efficiencies as a result of AI and GenAI initiatives. 

Fewer Irish business leaders believe GenAI will have a net positive impact on jobs 

There are evolving views of the macroeconomic impact of GenAI on jobs. While the majority (55%) of respondents are of the view that there will be an increase or no net impact on jobs as a result of GenAI, this is down from 83% reported last November. The survey further reveals that nearly half (46%) of business leaders do not plan to use GenAI to address labour shortages or increase workplace automation, down from 70% reported last year. 

Survey respondents stated that GenAI will require most workforces to develop new skills (65%), up from 60% in PwC’s latest Irish CEO survey launched in January 2024.

Six out of ten (61%) respondents reported to be planning to appoint a dedicated head of AI across the business, up from 37% last year. 

Pace of full scale AI adoption remains low but a marked increase in the level of piloting and testing indicates a surge can be expected in the years ahead    

Companies are realising the scale and complexity of AI implementation - just 7% reported to have widespread or full adoption of AI technologies right now in their business operations and has not changed since last November (2023: 7%).  

At the same time there is significant innovation and activity afoot to enable a surge in AI adoption in the years ahead: for example, 86% of survey respondents confirmed that they are either at the early stages of exploration, testing or partial implementation stages of AI adoption, up from 54% last year. Many organisations are realising the opportunities that AI and GenAI can bring and are looking to embed the technologies into their business operations but are also realising it takes time and can be a complex process.

According to the survey, key uses for GenAI in the next 12 months will be cyber defence (34%), IT development (22%), improving collaboration (17%), sales and marketing (12%) and enhancing supply chains (10%). 

David Lee, Chief Technology Officer, PwC Ireland, commented: “The survey confirms the positive potential of AI and GenAI for Ireland’s economy and businesses. 2024 is definitely a 'moving year' for Irish organisations in relation to AI. While the number of fully deployed solutions remains low there has been a marked increase over the last 6 months in organisations who are testing or piloting AI tools. This increase in activity levels also highlights the importance of having the appropriate governance in place to safely deploy AI related technologies.  While there is evidence that more organisations have plans in place to address this, there is more work to be done to give effect to these plans. This will be increasingly important in the context of the new EU AI Act.   

Aisling Curtis, Market Leader for Strategic Alliances, PwC Ireland, said: “Based on our experience in the PwC GenAI Business Centre, we are seeing a hive of activity and innovation taking place so we can expect the adoption of AI technologies to accelerate in the future. AI and GenAI technologies are a great opportunity to disrupt business models and improve productivity. 

“However, it will be important that processes are in place to ensure proper value and return on investment is obtained from AI and GenAI initiatives and the survey highlights that there is still significant work to be done in this area.” 

“To maximise the benefits of AI and GenAI, organisations need to support their employees to ensure that they have the relevant skills, as well as being AI literate under the new EU AI Act. As GenAI becomes more mainstream and part of the standard skill set, upskilling initiatives should be incorporated into organisations’ learning and development plans. Constant learning and relearning will be important.”  

Overwhelming majority believe that GenAI will increase cybersecurity risks

An overwhelming majority (91%) of Irish business leaders believe that GenAI will increase cybersecurity risks in the year ahead. The survey further reveals that GenAI is expected to increase other risks such as legal liabilities and reputation risks (79%), the spread of misinformation (74%) and bias towards specific groups of customers or employees (59%).  

Assessing return on investment challenging - more to do on realising value

Less than half (40%) of Irish business leaders are confident in their organisation’s ability to assess return on investment of current AI initiatives, down from 45% last year.  

At the same time, over a third (35%) reported not to have realised value from AI and GenAI initiatives in the last 12 months, similar to last year. Where value was received this was in the following key areas: increased productivity (28%), increased operational efficiencies (26%) and enhanced customer experiences (17%). 

Many wary of GenAI’s ability to build trust - few have fully established AI/GenAI governance structures in place

The survey highlights that trust is a critical focus for Irish business leaders.  However, only 7% reported to currently have AI and/or GenAI governance structures in place, similar to last November (6%).  At the same time, a significant majority (75%) are planning or developing a plan to have GenAI governance structures in place, up from 56% last year.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of survey respondents are of the view that GenAI will not enhance their organisation’s ability to build trust with shareholders in the next 12 months.

Less than three out of ten (28%) stated that they are confident that the processes and controls over GenAI in their organisation lend themselves to safe and secure outcomes.

A large majority (84%) welcome the introduction of the EU AI Act and other similar regulations, saying regulation is necessary to prevent the potential negative impact of AI. 

Martin Duffy, Head of GenAI, PwC Ireland, said: “Good governance, grounded in an organisation's risk appetite, provides clarity and a safe environment for the business to innovate and explore AI uses.  The business can then focus on faster adoption of AI without exposing it to unnecessary or unforeseen risks.  

“With the majority of Irish business leaders not having confidence that GenAI will enhance their organisation’s ability to build trust, significant focus on implementing governance structures will be critical. Good governance of AI systems will soon become a legal requirement under the EU AI Act and is welcomed by the majority of survey respondents. To realise AI’s value responsibly and securely, organisations must establish robust governance frameworks to be able to measure the benefits.”


Notes to editors

About the survey

The survey was conducted in May/June 2024 amongst nearly 100 C-suite business leaders including CEOs, heads of finance, heads of technology and heads of risk. The survey aims to obtain a snapshot of how AI and GenAI are impacting Irish businesses, the latest AI and GenAI trends and where the priorities lie.  

PwC Ireland launched its dedicated Generative AI (GenAI) Business Centre, enabled by Microsoft, in November 2023. The new Centre to help boost GenAI adoption, driving the necessary investment returns in a safe and secure way.

What is Generative AI: Generative AI (GenAI) has the potential to transform industries by automating tasks, revolutionise problem-solving, and create new opportunities. Companies that harness its power gain a competitive edge and are better equipped to navigate the challenges of the modern business landscape.

Over half (53%) of Irish respondents in the 2024 PwC Ireland Digital Trust survey expect Generative AI to lead to catastrophic cyber attacks in the next 12 months. 

PwC GenAI Business Leaders Survey

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Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

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