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While the Covid-19 pandemic and recession has prompted many businesses to put non-essential projects on hold, close to 70% of executives surveyed in a recent report say the situation hasn’t had an effect on artificial intelligence efforts at their companies.The stat comes from a survey of 347 business leaders across a variety of industries conducted by Australian data AI company Appen. While about 31% of the respondents said the pandemic has either somewhat (24%) or significantly (8%) delayed AI strategies, about 41% said the pandemic had actually sped up such efforts.The report also found an increase in the number of execs who said AI strategies were now led by members of the C-suite—a jump to 71% of respondents from 40% last year—suggesting that companies increasingly see the field as essential to their core business.Budgets are growing too; 28% of execs say their allocated AI budget is between half a million and $5 million, twice as many as last year’s 13%. The small fraction with AI budgets beyond $5 million has similarly doubled from 4% to 8%.“Increasing investment in AI projects and greater involvement by the C-suite, along with accelerating enterprise adoption in the wake of COVID-19, are clear indicators that AI is core to business success,” Appen CEO Mark Brayan said in the report. “However, most companies are still in the early stages and facing challenges, especially around training data.”Still, nearly half of business executives say they feel that their company is behind in adopting new AI technology, a finding that fits with other surveys showing companies are often overwhelmed by the prospect of overhauling operations. Enterprise tech companies and consultancies have increasingly been attempting to address this feeling by automating the very process of developing AI systems.Even so, Brayan claims the tech could soon be as fundamental as a web connection to business operations. “Many organizations have adopted the use of the internet at the core of their processes, and AI is on a similar journey from fringes to core value offering,” he said.

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