Cities not ready for AI – even the world’s smartest can’t handle getting any smarter
No city in the world is ready for the disruption that artificial intelligence (AI) will bring. This is the conclusion of a new review by management consultancy Oliver Wyman, which considers the readiness of 105 cities to cope with AI-inspired digital change, and finds even the smartest need to make urgent and “significant improvements”.
The study ranks cities on four criteria: the quality of their plan (defined as ‘vision’); their ability to execute on it (‘activation’); the quality of their talent and infrastructure (‘asset base’); and how the interplay of these last two, their activation and assets, impact their overall momentum (‘trajectory’).
Singapore is most prepared overall, the report says, with an average score of 75.8 out of 100 across the four criteria. London (75.6), New York (72.7), San Francisco (71.9), Paris (71.0), Stockholm (70.4), Amsterdam (68.6), Boston (68.5), Berlin (67.3), and Sydney (67.3) round out the top 10.
But the review states no city is even close to being fully prepared. None rank among the top 20 cities across all four categories, and none appear in the top 10 across even three.
Crucially, none are properly addressing the “bigger socio-economic” impacts of AI, the report reckons. These impacts are invariably focused on workers, and the provisions that national and local governments are putting in place for both their standing and incoming workforces. In a parallel questionnaire of 9,000 people in 21 cities, the consultancy found
45 per cent of respondents think automation could eliminate their jobs in the next decade, and 42 per cent lack confidence in their government’s vision for technological change. More than half of respondents in Asian cities considered their jobs to be most at risk, compared to 44 percent in Europe, and just 34 percent in North America.
Timocin Pervane, co-leader of the Oliver Wyman Forum’s City Readiness initiative, commented: “Most cities plan to use AI to become ‘smart cities’ or the next Silicon Valley, but few focus on the bigger, strategic social and economic opportunities and challenges, such as the need to retrain people who may be forced to look for new work as a result of the broad deployment of AI.”
Added Kaijia Gu, co-leader of the Oliver Wyman Forum’s City Readiness initiative: “Some cities, like Singapore, are better prepared than others, but all cities will need to make improvements to prepare for the impacts of next-generation technology. City officials will need to work closer than ever before with local employers and educational institutions to tackle this challenge.”
The index also ranks cities based on their size, from megacities with over 10 million inhabitants to smaller ones with fewer than three million. London tops the list of cities with populations of more than 10 million people; Singapore leads cities globally with populations of between five million and 10 million; San Francisco is the most prepared city with a population of three to five million; and Stockholm is top for cities with populations between one and three million.
The report says smaller cities are often nimbler, and more able to adapt to technological disruption, even despite their comparative lack of resources. Half of the top 10 cities – San Francisco, Boston, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Sydney – have fewer than 5 million residents. “Proactive smaller cities can be just as well positioned for an age of AI because they are more agile,” said Pervane.
The consultancy said in a statement: “Megacities such as London, New York, and Paris are not the only ones with the rare trio of top talent, top employers, and top educational institutions that can help to succeed in an age of AI. Five of the top 15 cities with these strengths have fewer than 5 million people, including San Francisco, Boston, Stockholm, San Jose, and Sydney.”
In terms of implementation / activation, European cities lead, with 12 cities among the top 20. In terms of momentum / trajectory, Asian cities dominate the leaderboard, with 14 of the top 20. Eight of these are in China, including Shenzhen, Beijing, and Guangzhou.
Meanwhile, a separate report, this time from a recruitment consultancy, has looked at the impact of AI on the UK job market specifically, and calculated up to a third of jobs will be automated “in the coming years” – or else change as a result of AI. In total, 10.5 million UK workers will be affected, it says.
At the same time, the report, by recruiter Robert Walters, notes 133 million new jobs will be created globally. Data science has emerged as a mainstream profession, it said, with vacancies for data scientists and data engineers increasing at a rate of 110 per cent and 86 per cent per annum, respectively.
Ollie Sexton, principal at Robert Walters, said: “As businesses become ever more reliant on AI, there is an increasing amount of pressure on the processes of data capture and integration. As a result, we have seen an unprecedented number of roles being created with data skill-set at their core. Our job force cannot afford to not get to grips with data and digitalisation. Since 2015 the volume of data created worldwide has more than doubled – increasing (on average) by 28 per cent year-on-year.”
Robert Walters said the top industries investing in AI are, in alphabetical order: agriculture, business support, customer experience, energy, healthcare, intellectual property, IT service “What we are seeing is from those businesses that are prepared management, manufacturing, technical support, retail, and software development.