Artificial Intelligence - Real Urgency

It is concerning that very few Norwegian businesses have embraced artificial intelligence to develop new and competitive solutions, writes Øystein Søreide.
Published on
April 5, 2024

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At the beginning of the year, NHO and Abelia presented a member survey revealing that only one in four businesses has adopted artificial intelligence. Fortunately, there has been an increase since a similar survey was conducted among companies in July (Aftenposten), but the proportion is still too low.

According to Abelia's restructuring barometer for 2023, Norway ranks in the middle internationally in the use of enabling technologies (such as AI) in business and in the middle for the digitization of public services. Have we become too accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the best in class? There are alarmingly few using AI to develop new and competitive solutions. Both the business sector and the public sector need to aim for a much higher level of ambition.

A recent report from the Socio-Economic Analysis (SØA) shows that digitization and increased use of AI can create billion-class value for Norway and contribute to solving significant societal challenges. However, the sooner we start, the greater the gain. And the competition becomes tougher the longer we wait.

The most common obstacle to adopting artificial intelligence in the workplace and in businesses is competence and a lack of insight into how new tools can address the challenges of businesses. Increased competence and understanding of AI are prerequisites for utilizing the opportunities inherent in the technology. Therefore, raising the level of competence should be high on the agenda for all businesses.

Good starting assistance available

Fortunately, there is a lot of good starting assistance available, including at Digital Norway. They offer a range of digital courses on the topic of artificial intelligence. Through the national strategy for artificial intelligence from 2020, the authorities also made the online course Elements of AI freely available to everyone, in Norwegian.

How businesses choose to raise competence in their organization will vary, but one thing is certain: the need is there. Understanding and knowledge create confidence and trust, necessary prerequisites for change and the use of new tools. In boardrooms, among leadership, and employees alike, curiosity, testing, and actively seeking knowledge should be prioritized, in my opinion.

While businesses need to pivot, seize new opportunities, and actively seek knowledge, we also need tomorrow's employees to come equipped with relevant knowledge and understanding of technology and the sciences. There is a need for a significant boost in the entire education system in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and ICT (information and communication technology) competence. As the government's own outlook report from March last year eloquently states:

"Although the education system cannot solve all problems of competence scarcity, we can still ensure a better alignment between what the education system delivers and what society needs."

It's moving too slow

However, my experience is that it's moving too slowly. It's too slow in the education system, in politics, and unfortunately, also in businesses. Are we resting too much on our laurels? Norway has enjoyed prosperity for a long time, with secure jobs, high wages, low unemployment, and good welfare benefits. Why the rush then? Part of the answer is linked to our economy. Norway has benefited greatly from raw material exports and industrial adventures throughout the years. Our industry structure is strongly tied to a few specific industries, which may not have undergone the most significant transformations in recent years.

We are now in the midst of a historic shift from a commodity-based to a knowledge-based industry structure. At the same time, the Norwegian economy faces several challenges: inflation, rising public expenses, labor shortages, and an aging population. Geopolitical unrest creates significant uncertainty for the business sector that is meant to support the welfare state in the years to come.

We cannot wait any longer. It is urgent now. That's why my New Year's resolution is to learn more, be more willing to change. We must harness the opportunities that new technology, such as artificial intelligence, offers us faster. For that, we need knowledge and leadership.

Companies referred IN ARTICLE: