MISSISSAUGA, ON–The artificial intelligence (AI) boom across all industries has Canadian employees torn over AI’s role in society: 57 percent hold hope and see AI as beneficial, while 61 percent believe it could be a threat. Six in ten Canadians believe that Canada should invest in AI, not only to ensure our country is a technology leader but also to increase the training and upskilling of workers in AI, according to a new survey commissioned by TECHNATION, Canada’s largest technology industry association.

“While AI adoption is surging globally, Canada is experiencing a lag in Industry adoption. There’s a lot of work to do to increase national AI readiness and Canadians’ understanding of and trust in AI,” said Angela Mondou, president and CEO of TECHNATION. (CNW Group/TECHNATION)

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians say that the country will lose talented people to other countries if we don’t invest in AI and 42 percent believe our standard of living depends on how much we invest in the technology.

But while many respondents believe that there are benefits from using AI such as better fraud detection (86 percent) and improved government services (73 percent), there is still some apprehension. Canadians want transparency about when AI is being used and are uneasy about potential national security risks (95 percent and 93 percent have some concerns about these, respectively). Interestingly, nine in 10 Canadians expressed some level of unease around misinformation and “deep fake” videos or images being used in Canadian elections, which is concerning as Canada could be heading to the polls this year or next.

TECHNATION’s AI Survey of Canadian Employees, which polled 2,000 Canadian workers about their awareness and perceptions of AI, revealed that Canadian workers are in the dark when it comes to AI as 43 percent say they know very little or nothing about the topic.

“While AI adoption is surging globally, Canada is experiencing a lag in Industry adoption. There’s a lot of work to do to increase national AI readiness and Canadians’ understanding of and trust in AI,” said Angela Mondou, president and CEO of TECHNATION. “Canadians want investment in AI and are calling on government and businesses to work together to ensure workers are trained and prepared for the future. Canadians also clearly see the benefits of AI as long as there’s responsible (agile) regulation.”

AI can boost productivity, according to workers
The results clearly show that most Canadian employees view AI as highly relevant to them personally and to their work. Sixty-nine per cent of employers felt AI could help their workers take care of repetitive tasks, which would allow them to focus on work “that matters” (60 percent) and increase employee productivity (57 percent). While office workers see the greatest potential for AI to help their employers, two-in-five (42 percent) of trades and service industry workers also say that AI could help improve productivity.

Survey respondents also feel that AI could help them with a broad range of tasks. The vast majority said they’d be comfortable using the technology for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data and copy (73 and 68 percent respectively) and assisting in research (63 percent). Surprisingly, 55 percent of Canadian workers are not comfortable using AI to help them make decisions, implying that there is distrust in AI and its potential to replace humans in decision-making processes. Perhaps that’s why 87 percent of employees have concerns about job loss due to automation from AI and less than one in five believe that AI will create more jobs than it eliminates.

Mary Ann Yule, TECHNATION Chair and HP Canada President and CEO said: “With Canada’s economy comprised of 98 per cent small-medium enterprises (SMEs), our government must also consider the investment gaps in AI that some SMEs face and review policy levers to accelerate AI adoption by employers and industry sectors, enabling them to sufficiently participate and thrive in this transformational era driven by AI.”

Need to guard against misinformation and deep fakes
Canadian workers say it’s important to regulate financial and banking applications (61 percent), the use of deep fake videos (56 percent) and using facial recognition in public spaces (53 percent).

Mondou noted, “The results of the survey align with what the tech industry knows: with the right level of investment, training and regulation we can enable Canadian employees while accelerating the responsible adoption of AI in Canada. We’re working closely with industry leaders and the federal government to preserve Canada’s reputation and leadership in how we develop, regulate, and adopt responsible, ethical AI. Ultimately, Canada needs a revamped national AI strategy to reduce national barriers to adoption”.

About the Survey
These are findings of a survey conducted by TECHNATION from January 18-24, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,000 adult Canadian workers. The respondents are members of Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Angus Reid Forum is Canada’s most well-known and trusted online public opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.

TECHNATION is the industry-government nexus for technology prosperity in Canada. As a member-driven, not-for-profit, TECHNATION unites Canada’s technology sector, governments, and communities to enable technology prosperity in Canada by providing advocacy, professional development and networking opportunities across industry and governments at all levels; connecting Canadian scale-ups with global tech leaders; engaging the global supply chain; and filling the technology talent pipeline.

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