Digital technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data and cloud computing are reshaping most of the businesses as we know them, but it will be Artificial Intelligence (AI) to shake world economy. According to Global Connectivity Index 2018 by Huawei, it will unleash a new wave of innovation and economic activity with an estimated value of 23 trillion dollars by 2025.
AI’s global impact will boost industries in a different way. Manufacturing and ICT will have the most significant benefits, estimated at about 6.4 and 5.0 trillion dollars respectively. Professional services and government will take advantage of an extra 3 trillion dollar value, while AI will generate additional revenues of around 1.5 trillion dollars in finance and retail.
However, Huawei’s index reveals that AI-related growth might not be homogeneous around the world, but reward only the countries which are more committed to supporting and spreading this technology. The 20 frontrunners countries, led by United States, Singapore and Sweden, are expected to have the highest returns, as AI shows an average ROI exceeding 6 or 7 times that of traditional investments.
Ranked fifth, UK is among the fastest growing countries thanks to some government initiatives such as the Digital Catapult or IoT UK, both accelerating research and public spending. China is also showing great progress, as well as Egypt. Although far from top index positions, the North African country has significantly improved broadband and mobile networks coverage, facilitating digital transformation of consumer and business services, thus paving the way for the launch of AI applications.
Other geographies, where digital technology adoption is still in the early stage, might not be able to catch up on lost time. That’s what experts define the ‘Matthew effect’, applying the accumulated advantage concept theorized by sociologist Robert K. Merton. AI investments have a multiplier effect, so they might exponentially grow the benefits for pioneer countries and businesses, and prevent latecomers from recovery. Talents and skills shortage might worsen the situation, as AI expansion will probably direct engineers and professionals towards the most attractive countries, aggravating the digital gap.
Surely AI has the potential to be a real ‘Big Bang’, triggering innovation on a scale previously unknown. New business and government models and applications require a forward-looking strategy and adequate investments to succeed in driving a fertile expansion of global digital economy.