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I’m looking forward to participating on a panel discussion at this year’s AI Summit to discuss how Ireland can be more successful with AI. The first thing to note here is that industry research places Ireland’s pace at adopting AI as a little slower than other Europe regions. This is based on a number of factors from regulatory issues and tight budgets to a limited pool of AI-skilled professionals. For some organisations, there has been a little reluctance to invest in this technology before fully understanding how it will impact their business. So, companies have taken wait and see approach while they focus on their overall digital transformation strategy. However, most Irish companies have, at least, started to plan their AI journey and, with over $39 million invested in AI start-ups in Ireland in the last decade*, it certainly hasn’t stopped Ireland bringing to market some really exciting innovations in this space.  

With AI, there can often be a focus on the negatives including the loss of jobs for humans as roles become more automated. According to PwC, over 7 million jobs will be displaced by AI between 2017 and 2037. However, it will also lead to the generation of 7.2 million jobs. AI technology has already delivered great things to the world. Cork-based Infant Research Centre is a great example of a local and award-winning company that is using AI to solve global healthcare issues. Their AI-based technology uses deep learning to detect neonatal seizures, which is based on a faster, more lightweight algorithm that needs fewer saved parameters and memory, and so can run on mobile devices such as tablets. 

On a more practical level, AI has the power to improve the overall customer journey. In fact, ESB Networks was honoured at the most recent AI Awards. They are using AI-based smart meter technology to process images of legacy and smart meters to support the  national rollout of the smart meter programme. These images are automatically classified and readings are extracted by a backend process which identifies issues for review and drives an ongoing quality improvement process, ensuring delivery of a higher quality service to Irish customers. So, these almost invisible improvements, through the automation of systems and processes, will bring efficiency across multiple industries, which will boost productivity and allow businesses to focus on other core areas of their business. 

Overall, Ireland is in a great position to drive AI-technology innovation but we need to get the building blocks right to set us up for success. It’s something that we’re very focused on in Microsoft and why one of our priorities is to invest in digital skills to support people in Ireland to gain the right skills to prepare for the future. We’re investing over €5 million in our Dream Space programme to educate over 100,000 kids and their teachers on technology, AI, and coding. We’ve also developed an AI School, which offers a master class series for business leaders to empower them to be successful and get results from AI.  

Kieran McCorry

National Technology Officer at Microsoft Ireland

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