Data61's new roadmap touts AI as national panacea

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Data61's new roadmap touts AI as national panacea

Outlines areas for economic advantage.

Healthcare, urban development and natural resource management have been identified as some of the key areas for AI specialisation and export in a new national roadmap developed by the CSIRO’s Data61.

The roadmap was launched in Canberra on Friday by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, who said the 68-page roadmap outlines how the nation can best take advantage of AI.

Data61 said it selected the three specialisations based on Australia’s existing strengths and capabilities “where we already have an advantage,'' opportunities to solve significant problems facing the country, and opportunities for global export.

“Australia faces acute challenges in meeting the health and aged care needs of the future,” the chapter on healthcare states, highlighting that healthcare expenditure reached $181 billion in FY17, “associated with 4.7 percent annual growth in real expenditure which is above the rate of real income growth in the economy”.

Without technological intervention, the CSIRO expects governments will need to double healthcare spending by 2055 to maintain current levels of services.

Data61 also expects AI can be used to improve the built environment with beneficial social, economic and environmental benefits through more efficient design, planning, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure of buildings.

In terms of natural resource management, AI will be used “to enhance our natural resource management, reduce the costs and improve the productivity of agriculture, fisheries, forestry and environmental management,” Andrews said.

Handily, the visionary roadmap to the future is underpinned by examples already in the market or well on their way to being commercially launched.

“Already AI systems are matching, or even outperforming, human experts in areas such as oncology, radiology and retinal disease,” the report states.

Companies working in the built environment space are increasingly adopting AI to lower construction costs, remove bottlenecks, or even to differentiate their properties as premium offerings in a crowded market.

The local resources sector is also well known for championing AI and automation technologies to drive efficiencies in their operations and reduce the number of workers at the coalface, as it were.

However, Andrews refuted that AI will be result in a net reduction in jobs.

“In terms of jobs, there’s no doubt the way we work will change, as it has for centuries. But AI will mean more jobs, not less,” she said.

“AI may change what work looks like, but it will create jobs, not destroy them.

“In fact, we know AI is going to be crucial in ensuring the government meets its target of creating 1.25 million jobs by 2024.”

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