AI boom will create unprecedented opportunities, Oireachtas committee to hear

Amazon, Google and Microsoft to discuss impact of technology business in the Republic and risks to workers

Ireland and Europe are on the brink of unprecedented changes against the backdrop of the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution, big tech will tell an Oireachtas committee, but the technology also carries risks and companies must work with government to soothe anxieties.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment on Wednesday will hear from representatives of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft, who will discuss recent developments in the technology and its likely impact on businesses here.

Committee members are expected to question the tech multinationals on issues including the impact of AI adoption on jobs and workers’ rights among other issues, including the relatively slow pace of AI adoption among indigenous businesses.

In their opening statement, seen by The Irish Times, AWS’s European head of AI policy Sasha Rubel, and Amazon’s head of public policy in Ireland Ed Brophy, will tell committee members that AI could “unlock” an extra €600 billion in gross value added for Europe, a figure equal in value to the European construction industry.

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However, while the appetite for AI tools is strong, governments across Europe “risk leaving their share on the table” unless they tackle issues around regulation, digital skills and access to technology.

AI technologies can bring “numerous opportunities” for Ireland, Kieran McCorry, national technology officer at Microsoft Ireland, and Jeremy Rollison, Microsoft’s head of EU policy, will say while also “raising legitimate questions about its use”.

Microsoft aims to bring new AI tools to market by taking a “careful and mindful approach” through engagement with governments, the committee will hear.

European leaders last week gave the final go-ahead for the EU Artificial Intelligence Act, a first o -its kind regulation seeking to establish a common legal framework for the technology across the bloc.

Political alignment and support for responsible AI is “well in hand”, Mr McCorry and Mr Rollison will say. But greater co-operation between government departments and agencies like Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices is required.

Meanwhile, Ryan Meade, public policy and government relations manager at Google Ireland, will tell the committee that Google is approaching AI “boldly and responsibly” and is committed to “working collaboratively with governments and experts to address and mitigate potential risks”.

Two weeks ago professional services firms KPMG, EY and Accenture told the committee the Republic has an opportunity to establish itself as a global leader in AI development but that the technology has the potential to be massively disruptive unless the wider workforce is reskilled.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times