AI budgets up significantly and decisions moving from C-suite to technologists, away from “silver bullet” solutions to improvements to internal operations
SAN FRANCISCO — June 15, 2021 — Appen Limited (ASX:APX), the leading provider of high-quality training data for organizations that build effective AI systems at scale, today released its seventh annual State of AI report. This year’s report reveals a significant year-over-year increase in AI budgets, ranging from $500,000 to $5 million per year, up 55% on last year. In 2021, AI decision makers are moving away from the AI “silver bullet” and towards the use of artificial intelligence to support internal processes, as they focus on better understanding their data, as well as efficiency gains.
“Insights from this year’s State of AI report clearly indicate that companies are going all-in on AI,” said Appen CEO Mark Brayan. “When we first set out to understand the state of AI and machine learning seven years ago, organizations globally were eager to start AI projects but weren’t making meaningful progress. Today, in a time of transition during the pandemic, AI is considered core to survival, and we see this in the results of the survey – increased budgets, more technologists in charge, and increased reliance on external training data providers.”
The report also found a shift in responsibility for AI projects from business decision makers to technical practitioners (technologists), motioning an increased focus on operationalizing AI projects. Technologists implementing and maintaining projects is a signal that AI is maturing within organizations and being delegated into management layers in the business.
“This year’s State of AI report exemplifies how the maturing of AI projects, the desire for faster and greater ROI, and the increased reliance on third-party training data providers like Appen go hand in hand,” said Wilson Pang, CTO at Appen. “High-quality data is the foundation for success for every AI project, and no amount of tweaking of algorithms can negate the consequences of bad data. Companies that want to deliver better results faster understand that third-party training data is a must.”
Key Takeaways from the 2021 State of AI Report
• Impact of COVID-19: Enterprises of all sizes confirmed they accelerated their AI strategy as a result of COVID-19 in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021. However, organizations that have an external data provider are twice as likely to significantly accelerate their AI initiatives than those that don’t.
• A shift in decision-making responsibility: In 2021, a significantly higher percentage of technologists are responsible for making decisions for AI projects and putting them into practice. C-level executives are responsible for AI initiatives for only 39% of organizations, down from 71% last year, with companies delegating responsibility to VPs and Directors.
• Budget increases: AI budgets of $500k to $5 million have increased by 55% year-over-year, with only 26% reporting budgets under $500K as companies have found that annual budgets of less than that prevents them from being perceived as a market Leader. Not surprisingly, annual AI budgets of $1 million or more leads to a higher probability of deployment than budgets under $1 million.
• Focus on the data: An overwhelming majority of organizations have partnered with external training data providers to deploy and update AI projects at scale – a reflection of the fact that data acquisition, preparation and management are the top challenges AI practitioners face. Companies who use external data providers are 1.5 times more likely to say their company is ahead of others in AI deployment.
• Key disconnects remain: The report finds that business leaders and technologists don’t yet agree in areas like ethics and interpretability. Technologists have a greater concern for ethics (41% versus business leaders’ 33%), while business leaders are more concerned with interpretability (47% versus technologists’ 38%).
To learn more, download the full State of AI report.
About Appen Limited
Appen collects and labels images, text, speech, audio, and video used to build and continuously improve the world’s most innovative artificial intelligence systems. With expertise in more than 180 languages, a global crowd of over 1 million skilled contractors, and the industry’s most advanced AI-assisted data annotation platform, Appen solutions provide the quality, security, and speed required by leaders in technology, automotive, financial services, retail, manufacturing, and governments worldwide. Founded in 1996, Appen has customers and offices around the world.