Asia-Pacific universities missing AI’s full potential, says study

Less than one-third of institutions are utilising technology that could boost innovation and fundraising, report finds

September 26, 2019
Source: Microsoft Asia

Artificial intelligence could potentially help higher education institutions in the Asia-Pacific double the rate of innovation and more than triple funding by 2021, according to a report.

However, only 32 per cent of institutions in the region have “embarked on their AI journey”, the report by Microsoft and the International Data Corporation says.

Universities could leverage data to “glean insights and drive improved outcomes”, the report says. AI could be used to “optimise operations and enhance student engagements, as it reduces resource-intensive work among faculty and administrative staff”, said Larry Nelson, regional general manager, education for Microsoft Asia.

Future Ready Skills: Assessing APAC Education Sector’s Use of AI was published on 23 September at the Asian Summit on Education and Skills in Bangalore, India. It surveys leaders, staff and workers from both the business and education sectors across 15 Asia-Pacific markets, including Australia and New Zealand.

Institutions that have adopted AI are seeing improvements of between 11 per cent and 28 per cent in areas such as funding, innovation, competitiveness, efficiency and student engagement. By 2021, institutions with AI could experience an increase in funding by up to 3.7-fold, the report says.

The report found gaps between educators’ views on the potential of AI and what was actually happening on Asian campuses.

Three out of four education leaders agree that AI will drive competitiveness in the next three years, while more than half of education leaders and staff believe that the technology will help with their existing job or in reducing repetitive tasks.

However, the education sector lags in three main areas in terms of AI readiness: data, strategy and investment, and work culture. The study cites “siloed” data and limited use of cloud platforms, as well as a lack of governance practices. It recommends that universities develop sound AI strategies and invest in organisation-wide efforts.

“Cultural traits and behaviours” are also a barrier to AI use at universities. About two-thirds of staff do not feel empowered to take risks and to act with speed and agility. The study also found a disconnect between education leaders and staff, who were more eager to learn new skills than their managers realised.

Reskilling is particularly important, as the report found a shortage in the know-how required for an AI future – specifically in IT, programming, digital, quantitative, analytical and statistical skills.

“Culture is an important key to help nurture the AI mindset,” said Victor Lim, vice-president for consulting operations of IDC Asia/Pacific. “Education leaders will need to develop an innovative culture and empower their staff to work in an agile manner.”

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