AI developed in Quebec is used very little in the province

Quebec artificial intelligence (AI) is still trying to get out of the labs. Although Quebec is a recognized international hub for the development of AI-related technologies, its SMEs and other organizations make very little use of them. They are missing out on opportunities to increase their productivity or improve short-term profitability.

run however, those specializing in AI for the business world are well aware of this potential. Minister for Economy and Innovation and Minister for Regional Economic Development Pierre Fitzgibbon has been repeating this for many years. “In addition to improving the productivity of our small and medium enterprises, digital technologies are an effective response to the problems caused by labor shortages,” he said again last Wednesday, when run Montreal-based Worximity has announced it has received $14 million from a group of investors, including Investissement Québec.

Worximity claims it can increase the productivity of manufacturing companies by 20% to 30% without much effort on their part… short of agreeing to the famous digital transformation so dear to Minister Fitzgibbon. Worximity is helping small and medium-sized enterprises take their first steps in what is known as Industry 4.0, where a wealth of real-time data collected from across the company helps guide managers, thereby speeding up their decision-making.

A shift that could pay off, says Yannick Desmarais, founder and CEO of Worximity. “We create information that can be used immediately. This is an efficiency gain that can be achieved without too much investment. »

Better explain AI to SMEs

Despite these promises, Quebec’s small and medium enterprises continue to neglect the adoption of new technologies.

These are two studies published within days of each other that paint a somewhat unfortunate picture of the underutilization of technology by Quebec organizations. In mid-May, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) released a survey showing that 91% of SMEs in the country have invested heavily in technology in recent years, but only 5% of them use it effectively.

BDC believes that this situation is increasingly creating a digital divide between companies that increase their competitiveness through the proper application of technology and those that are slow to follow this path. Citing cost concerns and uncertain benefits from using these technologies, nearly 40% of companies surveyed by BDC said they don’t have a website and two out of three SMBs don’t analyze customer data.

Then, last Wednesday, the Order of Certified Human Resources Consultants (CRHA) in turn shared the results of a survey that focused on the role of artificial intelligence in business in Quebec. His observation: this role almost does not exist. This is a concern for order, as AI is an effective way to help reduce the effect of labor shortages by automating certain redundant tasks and increasing the ability of workers to do more work.

“Still, we have the advantage that Montreal is a global hub for AI development,” says Have to Manon Poirier, Executive Director of the Order of the CRHA. “Why such a gap between the development and application of AI? »

A doubly intriguing question, given that the SMEs surveyed by the order seem to be well aware of the potential of AI to improve their business, with two out of three companies acknowledging that it can improve productivity and four out of five companies believing that it can automate internal processes. and thus reduce the burden on their employees.

“There are so many new young companies offering AI tools these days, these companies need to better communicate the potential of their technologies to small and medium enterprises,” continues Manon Poirier, who envisions an agent facilitator able to analyze companies’ processes in order to guide them in the right direction. channel. the right tools for fast implementation.

From a human resource standpoint alone, digitalization has become important, she says, not only for better hiring, but also for preventing hasty layoffs.

Yannick Desmarais nods. “Today, attracting young workers with promises of paper and pencils doesn’t work,” he explains.

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