The global AI agenda: Asia-Pacific

April 23, 2020
Trends in AI adoption, leading use cases, challenges, and the future of data sharing in Asia-Pacific.

Asian governments have ambitious plans for leadership in the AI era. From China to Japan, Singapore to India, policymakers across Asia have developed national-level plans for how AI can be used to enhance domestic and regional competitiveness, which include public and private sector collaboration. Similarly, business executives have been bullish in recent years about the potential for AI to enhance customer experiences, lower costs, and become a source of new business models and revenue.

This report is part of “The global AI agenda,” a thought leadership program by MIT Technology Review Insights examining how organizations are using AI today and planning to do so in the future. Featuring a global survey of 1,004 AI experts conducted in January and February 2020, it explores AI adoption, leading use cases, benefits, and challenges, and seeks to understand how organizations might share data with each other to develop new business models, products, and services in the years ahead.

Within Asia-Pacific, how do executives see AI playing out in their business? What are the main use cases thus far, and what challenges do they face in AI deployment? The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • Some 56% of Asian respondents to our survey had deployed AI in their operations by 2017, compared to less than a third of North American respondents and 35% on average across other regions. By 2019, nearly 96% of Asian respondents reported AI deployments, above the 85% average of respondents from the other regions.
  • While AI is certainly a widely used technology, it is still at the fringes of many business processes. In line with the global trend, nearly half of survey respondents expect AI to be used in between 21% and 30% of business processes in three years’ time. A further 24% expect AI to touch up to 40% of business processes.
  • Our survey finds that enterprises in Asia are using AI most extensively today in IT management (selected by 62% of respondents as a top-three area for AI), followed by customer service and research and development. The area where AI is set to grow the fastest by 2022 is across sales and marketing departments.
  • Asia-Pacific is ahead of other regions in using AI for purposes such as the personalization of products and services and determining pricing. These trends are likely connected to the region’s leadership in e-commerce. Research company eMarketer estimates e-commerce across Asia-Pacific grew 25% in 2019 (faster than all other regions) to reach $2.271 trillion, representing 64.3% of global e-commerce spending.
  • The greatest benefits achieved thus far have been in improved risk management, accelerated time-to-market, and better management decision-making capabilities. Within these areas, Asia is seeing greater success than other regions.