Pandemic Doesn’t Impact Plans to Implement AI Initiatives

April 26, 2021


Pandemic Doesn’t Impact Plans to Implement AI Initiatives

The economic and social effects of the pandemic have done little to dent plans around deploying AI, according to a survey of business leaders.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated their AI plans are unchanged, while a third said the pandemic has actually accelerated their plans.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic has taught a valuable lesson: organizations that invest in technology survive. IT infrastructure initiatives put in place before the crisis have allowed countless businesses to shift to online commerce and remote working. In other words, operate during it.

The pandemic has taught a similar lesson about artificial intelligence (AI): Organizations are either on the right track with their AI strategies or, if anything, need to dramatically step up the pace of investment. Children’s Hospital chief information officer Dan Nigrin points out that AI applications that promote telehealth, for example, “are not necessarily Covid-related, but certainly the pandemic has accelerated the consideration and use of these kinds of tools.”

The report, from MIT Technology Review Insights sponsored by Arm, surveyed 301 business and technology leaders. Survey respondents are members of the MIT Technology Review Global Panel, a group of professionals asked to share their expertise on technology and business. Respondents were asked about their organizations’ AI strategies, how they’re using AI technologies, and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their deployments.

Concern About AI Ethics

The report also highlighted concern about AI ethics in a way that suggests the need for a holistic approach to AI projects.


A report generated off the back of the survey also includes interviews with a number of tech executives who offer their unique perspectives on AI deployment.

AI is enabling companies to re-imagine and re-architect their business

Companies are leveraging AI for reasons that include real-time decision-making, gaining a competitive edge, product development and improving customer experience. In short, AI is enabling companies to re-imagine and re-architect their business.

Most of the AI efforts in the surveyed universe directly leverage cloud-based compute, although more and more projects are utilizing AI compute at the edge and endpoint devices.  

Ibrahim Gokcen, who was until recently chief technology officer at Schneider Electric, the energy management company, said the cloud has been imperative “not only to transform our company digitally but also to transform our customers’ businesses digitally.”

“It was a clear, strategic area of investment for us before the crisis,” added Gokcen, who was one of a handful of AI adopters interviewed as part of the MIT Tech Review report.

Report highlights clear bifurcation of compute

Some organizations that are deploying AI solutions are doing so with clear bifurcation of compute duties in mind. For example, Marc Raibert, chairman of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, describes this as “athletic AI” versus “cognitive AI.” The former is computed largely on the device, such as a robot, where algorithms are tightly coupled with the machine and low latency is crucial. The latter is about thinking, planning and learning from a given environment. Here, companies are leveraging the cloud.

The MIT Tech Review survey also offers some relief for those who worry about the deleterious effects of AI. When it comes to the ethics of AI, business and tech leaders are most worried about AI falling into the wrong hands, and they’re uneasy about a lack of transparency and human bias coming through in algorithms.

“We realize people will judge us based on how sophisticated we are in thinking of ethics and community concerns around AI,” says Gokcen.

Read the MIT Technology Review insights report

The MIT Technology Review Insights report, A new horizon: Expanding the AI landscape is packed with insights that can help inform your development and deployment plans.

Learn About Arm’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Solutions