AI factors heavily into the future of digital transformation

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The second installment of ISACA’s Digital Transformation Barometer research underscores the ascent of artificial intelligence as a technology with growing potential — and how urgently employers must rise to the occasion of addressing the related risk and security implications.

In the 2018 Digital Transformation Barometer, global respondents rank AI/machine learning/cognitive technology as the second-most transformative technology for organizations, finishing just behind big data. While big data also was the top choice in the 2017 version of this annual research, the gap between big data and AI shrunk from 18 points to 3, reflecting a growing realization that AI technology is on the verge of profoundly reshaping many aspects of society.

Already, AI and machine learning hold significant sway in our daily lives, ranging from the way our flights are piloted to matters of simple convenience, such as how photographs are tagged on Facebook. Larger impact is on the way. AI and machine learning are being explored to set medical breakthroughs in motion, improve farmers’ crop yields and help law enforcement identify missing people, among a wide range of promising applications on the horizon. As new uses continue to be developed and refined, there will be increased need for enterprises to safely and securely deploy AI. On this front, there is much work to be done.

Only 40% of Digital Transformation Barometer respondents express confidence that their organizations can accurately assess the security of systems that are based on AI and machine learning, a statistic that is concerning enough today but will grow considerably more problematic in the near future if enterprises don’t make the needed investments in well-trained staffs capable of putting the needed safeguards in place.

As AI evolves — consider the likely proliferation of self-driving vehicles, or AI systems designed to reduce urban traffic — it will become imperative that enterprises can provide assurance that the AI will not take action that puts people in harm’s way.

Contending with malicious uses of AI will be one of the central challenges for our professional community, as a concerning report from a range of global researchers accentuated. The Digital Transformation Barometer research shows that potential instances of social engineering, data poisoning and political propaganda are among the malicious AI attacks that need to be accounted for in the short-term, but even more concerning possibilities loom, such as the activation of autonomous weapons, driving home the urgency of bolstering AI security capabilities. In many cases, the solution to keeping AI in check will be tapping into AI technology that enables security innovations.

Whether thinking about AI or other emerging technologies, practitioners should look for opportunities to expand their knowledge base and explore ways for their enterprises to leverage new technology to connect with customers in new and potentially more impactful ways.

More than 4 in 5 respondents (83%) indicate their organizations have no plans to accept cryptocurrency in the future, while the majority of respondents (53%) consider public cloud to be high risk, reflecting mindsets more tethered to the status quo than embracing opportunities to fuel innovation. Not every new technology is the right fit for every organization, but enterprise leaders owe it to their stakeholders to ensure they are actively exploring promising technologies and determining how technology can be securely leveraged to drive the innovation needed to compete in today’s digital economy.

Change is difficult for organizations, which traditionally are structured with stability, rather than innovation, in mind. However, as technology plays an increasingly prominent role in our daily lives, customers increasingly are expecting dynamic, swift-to-market, technology-driven solutions. To be able to deliver, organizations must prioritize investing in the security capabilities needed to enable effective and responsible digital transformation.

(This post originally appeared on the ISACA blog, which can be viewed here).

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