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UK Tech Minister emphasises trust for AI uptake in SMEs
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

UK Tech Minister Saqib Bhatti has stressed the importance of promoting trust in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to stimulate its adoption in small businesses. Bhatti states that trust and transparency in AI applications must be prioritised if SMEs are to effectively integrate this nascent technology into their operations.

Recent research conducted by Enterprise Nation, a small business support platform, reveals that over half of the UK's SMEs have begun leveraging AI to expand their operations. However, concerns regarding their 'lack of understanding' of how to effectively use this technology also came to light.

The research posits a growing interest in AI among small businesses, which is tempered by a lack of confidence and trust in its use. The findings underscore the pressing need for increased support and educational resources for small businesses to help them navigate the cuisine of AI and ensure its safe and profitable application in their operations.

Reacting to these findings, Minister Bhatti said, 'Obviously the demand is there, and we as a government obviously recognise there's risks there as well.' The Minister drew attention to the recent GBP £3.8 billion injection by the UK government into digital training and skills. The funds are aimed at empowering businesses of diverse sizes to harness the full potential of AI. The initiative is designed to bridge the knowledge gap and provide businesses with effective strategies for leveraging AI.

Effective AI adoption by small businesses is projected to significantly bolster the national economy. This would be possible as business founders are granted more bandwidth to focus on strategic growth while AI handles other aspects of operational functionality.

However, Tom Dunning, CEO of Ad Signal, has offered a note of caution. He says, "AI can transform a business's operations and boost efficiency to save vast amounts of time and money, but it is also important to remember the environmental impact that AI is having. The reality is that most businesses using AI don't actually need to use AI; they just jump on it because it's the latest trend."

"The network traffic that results from AI and the training of large language models has already had a detrimental effect on the environment and this will only rise exponentially while awareness remains low and more businesses blindly jump on the AI trends. Government, regulators and industry must collectively find a solution to reduce the carbon emissions caused by AI, before it causes irreversible damage."

Adding to the discussion, Sjuul van der Leeuw, CEO of Deployteq, part of Inspired Thinking Group, emphasised that 'AI is a powerful tool that can have a major impact when deployed correctly, boosting growth, unlocking innovation, and turbocharging the wider economy.' However, he insists that this potent impact cannot be achieved without a foundational level of trust between businesses and AI technologies.

Sjuul van der Leeuw urged for collaboration between the industry and government both in the safe development of AI and in equipping staff to harness AI's full benefits positively.