Latest ONS data shows that 10% of UK businesses plan to adopt AI

The Office for National Statistics has found that UK adults are aware they have been using AI-based chatbots, and approximately one in six businesses are implementing AI applications

The latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that approximately one in six businesses (16%) are currently implementing at least one of the AI applications. Out of those, spam filters were the most specified (11%), with fewer businesses currently using chatbots (4%), facial recognition (3%), voice assistants (1%), and personalised shopping (1%).

Based on data from the ONS’ Business and insights conditions survey (BICS), of those businesses currently using or planning to use one of the specified AI applications, the most common reasons for doing so was improving cyber security (35%) and creating efficiencies (35%).

Looking at the general public, the ONS reported that there is some indication of increased public awareness of AI over the past year. The opinions and lifestyle survey from the ONS, which collected data between 4 May and 14 May 2023 also found that half (50%) of adults said they did not use AI at all in their day-to-day life in the month before data collection, 45% used it a little, and 5% used it a lot. Self-reported use of AI was lowest among adults aged 70 years and over, and 68% did not use AI at all.

Looking at where people were using AI, the ONS data shows that around a third (34%) of adults said they had used AI chatbots in the past month. Among those, the most reported uses were customer service (50%), to try it out (33%), entertainment (19%) and advice (19%).

Older adults aged 70 years and over most reported having used chatbots for customer service (63%) and advice (28%). Whereas younger adults aged 16 to 29 years most reported having used AI chatbots to try it out (58%) and for entertainment (29%).

The data also shows that people have not yet formed a strong opinion on the negative or positive societal impact of AI. The ONS quoted a study from KPMG, which shows that in 2023, 34% of UK respondents ported that they were somewhat, mostly or completely willing to trust the use of AI, increasing from 26% in KPMG’s 2021 study.

The UK figures in the KPMG survey are at a similar similar level of trust in AI to the data for France (31%), Canada (32%), Australia (34%), and Germany (35%), and a slightly lower level of trust than the level of trust in the US (40%).

In the KPMG survey, the countries with the highest willingness to trust AI, reported by this study, were India (75%) and China (67%), which were also among the countries reporting the highest subjective knowledge of AI – 82% reported moderate to high subjective knowledge of AI in China, and 77% in India, compared with 32% in the UK.

Commenting on the ONS data, Ian West, head of technology and alliances at KPMG UK, said: “Businesses may not think that AI can help them, but there are a lot of tasks where it can be beneficial which might not have been thought about, such as cost optimisation, new product solutions and cyber security.

“AI as a term encompasses different types of technology, it isn’t all just generative AI chatbots as we’ve heard a lot about recently, so businesses should keep an open mind to exploring how AI can be used to help us do our jobs better.

“There will naturally be some sectors where AI will have a huge impact, such as those which are consumer-facing, but that doesn’t mean AI can’t help other businesses to create efficiencies and improve processes.”

Read more about AI in Business

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  • Risks associated with implementing AI systems must be acknowledged by organisations that want to use the technology ethically and with as little liability as possible.

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