Artificial Intelligence

Why do Irish businesses still have reservations about using AI?

By Business & Finance
29 February 2024
Illustration of a startled man recoiling in fear or surprise. He is depicted in a dramatic, exaggerated pose, with wide eyes and an open mouth, as if reacting to an unforeseen event or alarming news.

Although Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney, wants to see Ireland as the “global hub” for AI, some companies are wary of aspects of the technology.

By Benoit Quedru

Although AI has been around for decades, it has evolved considerably in recent years, with unprecedented advances transforming the way we view it. Thanks to the buzz generated by ChatGPT, AI became a huge conversation point in 2022. It allows you to automate certain tasks, summarise information, or even optimise complex processes in the work environment.

In Ireland, several companies have made great strides in implementing the technology as part of their process. For example, Irish cloud communications specialist Workair joined forces in November 2023 with one of the world’s largest native AI companies, Uniphore. Their goal, to bring Enterprise AI to Ireland, by pooling their skills, to ensure its customers will be able to better handle customer-centric tasks such as sales, frontline support, and compliance management across contact centres.

Late last year, OpenAI, ChatGPT’s creator, opened an office in Dublin. According to OpenAI chief strategy officer Jason Kwon, “Ireland is a good place to engage with Europe from a regulatory and business development standpoint.”

According to a recent PwC survey, some 24% of Irish business leaders admitted that they have no plans to use GenAI, such as OpenAI’s GPT models, in the year ahead. However, 61% of business leaders participating in this study said they are either considering adopting AI or are using it to a limited extent.

Cyber Attacks

The PwC 2024 Irish Digital Trust Insights Survey, which surveyed nearly 4,000 business and tech leaders across 71 countries, including Ireland, shows that Irish companies are most concerned about cyberthreats, such as third-party breaches, ransomware, and business email compromise.

More than half believe that Generative AI could generate catastrophic cyber attacks in the next 12 months. Another investigation carried out by the firm Grant Thornton revealed that 77.2% of Irish companies believe new AI technologies will make businesses more susceptible to cyberattacks.


A survey of 200 senior leaders by the Irish Management Institute demonstrates that just one-in-four Irish business leaders feel they have the skills to harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence within their organisations.

Almost 40% of respondents highlighted a lack of knowledge around the potential applications and impact of this technology, while 36% believed that a lack of important skills among their workforce was a further barrier to digital transformation in the company.

This is a situation which Irish Management Institute interim chief executive, Shane O’Sullivan, finds worrying: “With ongoing advances in AI and disruptive digital technologies, the fact that only 25pc of business leaders feel they have the necessary skills in place to support these changes is of significant concern”.

He adds: “Top-down leadership is critical for driving this fundamental transformation of how we work”.


AI poses ethical questions with regard to intellectual property rights and plagiarism through the use of generative AI like ChatGPT. The use of AI trained with data absorbed without the consent of the subjects poses significant privacy concerns, and there are ever-present concerns employees will be fired or replaced by machines. There is also the potential that automated decisions can be biassed and unfair.

The 8th edition of the KPMG CEO Outlook was published in 2023, with ethical issues cited by CEOs as the biggest challenge in implementing generative AI in their organisations.

57% of respondents worldwide cited ethics as the biggest concern. This figure was 60% in ROI and 73% in NI. Gillian Kelly, Head of Consulting at KPMG in Ireland, understands the concerns of Irish businesses, but wants to make them understand that AI is a useful tool: “It can release pressure on the bottom line by increasing efficiencies and also can combat increasing hiring challenges as many industries face talent shortages.”

She adds: “There’s a need to formally assess the ethics, governance and security in place around AI and machine learning technologies. We need a set of frameworks and controls to help organisations harness the power of AI — designing, building and deploying AI systems in a safe, trustworthy and ethical manner so companies can accelerate value for consumers, their own people, organisations and wider society.”

To address these concerns, the European Union recently published a law on regulation of artificial intelligence. The law is aimed at respecting the security and fundamental rights of its citizens, while preserving and stimulating the innovative character and competitiveness of the sector. The AI act should come into effect from 2026.

AI is a sector that Irish businesses should not neglect. According to McKinsey, Generative AI is predicted to add between $2.7 trillion – $4.4 trillion annually to the global economy.

About the author: Benoit Quedru is an Editorial Assistance at Business & Finance, and a freelance journalist in France.


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