June 20, 2024

The European Union has set ambitious targets to transform society and the economy by 2030 digitally. A new report shows adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly accelerating across European businesses, helping put the EU closer to achieving its digital objectives. 

According to the survey conducted by Strand Partners across over 16,000 citizens and 14,000 businesses, more than one-third (38%) of European companies embraced AI technology in some form in 2023. 

This represents a significant jump from just a quarter of firms utilizing AI tools as recently as 2022. 

Generative AI Drives Widespread Experimentation

Driving this surge is the expanding accessibility and capabilities of generative AI models that can produce original text, images, and other content.

Last year was a pivotal moment across Europe; from Malmo to Milan, the increasing availability of generative artificial intelligence created a strong appetite for experimentation among both consumers and businesses. 

This was explained by Tanuja Randery, Managing Director at Amazon Web Services, which commissioned the research. The poll found companies across major industries like retail, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing rapidly adopting artificial intelligence systems to enhance operations. 

This also included systems to understand customers better, provide personalized recommendations, automate processes, and more. Unveiled in early 2021, the EU Digital Decade established lofty targets for the region to meet by 2030, including having 80% of the population possess basic digital skills and 75% of companies utilizing cloud computing services.

However, by 2022, progress remained slow, with only 26% of firms implementing AI tools. Experts worried Europe risked falling 10 years behind schedule in achieving its digital objectives without concerted efforts to improve digital literacy and artificial intelligence adoption.

However, the strong embrace of AI observed in the report over the past year has helped accelerate the EU towards its aims.

On Track to Achieve Digital Goals

“The speed of AI uptake we saw in 2023 has put Europe firmly back on track to realize, if not exceed, its Digital Decade goals for digitalizing society and the economy,” noted Randery. 

Beyond businesses, the report found over 50% of EU citizens now interact with some form of AI daily, ensuring the growth of broader digital skills.

Their availability through easy-to-use apps and websites made artificial intelligence experimentation accessible to the average consumer. Companies quickly realized they could also utilize these technologies to create content, automate workflows, and enhance customer experiences.

The Strand Partners report predicts this rapid growth of generative AI will continue disrupting industries and changing the nature of work over the next decade

Further technological leaps in areas like speech artificial intelligence and computer vision will drive even wider adoption.

Researchers estimate that expanded European adoption of AI could positively impact the economy by an additional €600 billion through 2030, supplementing previous forecasts of a €2.7 trillion boost. But fully realizing these gains requires addressing AI skill gaps.

The report emphasized that while adoption is accelerating, further investment into digital skills and AI training is still needed. Students must receive education on core technologies like machine learning and data science. Also, workers should have access to AI certifications and professional development programs.

If businesses, governments, and schools partner together to expand access to AI resources and training, Europe can smooth the transition for workers into new digitally-powered roles. This will ensure no groups are left behind by technological change.

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