27 Nov 2023
by Matthew Houlihan

Cisco study reveals major gaps in AI readiness both in the UK and around the world 

Guest blog from Matthew Houlihan, Senior Director, Government and Corporate Affairs, UK and Europe at Cisco.

There is much excitement and opportunity relating to how AI can help expand business operational capabilities, innovation capacity and productivity. But businesses don’t always know how to do this and are finding they face several internal challenges before they see success. And, as we’ve seen with regulation being discussed both in the UK and around the globe, there can be significant concerns around the responsible and safe use of AI. 

These challenges are quantified in a new Cisco study, the Cisco AI Readiness Index, a survey of more than 8,000 business and IT leaders across 30 countries, including the UK. The headlines? Whilst 95% of respondents around the world said they have an AI strategy in place or under development, only 14% said they were fully ready to integrate AI into their businesses.  

Looking at the UK specifically, nearly eight out of 10 respondents said their organisation was embracing AI with a moderate to high level of urgency but only 21% of respondents in the UK classified themselves as ‘pacesetters’ in terms of their AI adoption strategy.  

Where are the gaps? 

Cisco’s Index underscored some critical, specific gaps businesses need to fill when adopting AI solutions.  

Digital infrastructure is vital for AI workloads – for example, AI-powered internet searches typically take 10x computing power compared to a traditional internet search. Cisco’s index found that businesses are aware of the need for AI-ready infrastructure, but in the UK only 21% of organisations have networks that are fully flexible to handle that complexity. 

At its core, AI is about data. And the largest immediate issue here is data fragmentation. UK companies identified challenges in terms of data readiness, as 86% of respondents admitted that their data exists in silos across their business.  This presents considerable risks for data and AI management and limits the ability to fully leverage AI technologies. To gain the maximise benefits of AI, it’s essential to be able to integrate data from many sources, seamlessly, and securely. 

There is a future with AI that’s innovative, efficient, and trustworthy, not to mention more sustainable and equitable. But that better tomorrow demands careful decisions and actions today. In the Cisco AI Readiness Index, 76% of respondents said their organisations lack comprehensive AI policies. Without proper governance for how an organisation works with AI, issues of bias, fairness, and transparency in data and algorithms won’t be effectively addressed and there’s a risk of businesses being behind the curve on adapting to future regulation. When it comes to AI governance, there is further work to do, as 21% of UK organisations said they had untested, basic protocols, or none at all for responding to such incidents.  

Today, much of the internet is powered by Cisco technology—a testament to the trust customers, partners, and stakeholders place in Cisco to securely connect everything. This trust is not something to take lightly, even more so with emerging technologies like AI. Cisco’s commitment is formalised in its Responsible AI Principles, supported by a Responsible AI Framework. They set a high bar for the tech industry and beyond.  

Importantly, UK organisations have identified an AI talent gap, as only 18% of UK organisations are equipped with the talent to embrace AI. When asked to highlight what specific skills were lacking among the employees in their organisation, 32% of respondents ranked comprehension and proficiency of AI tools and technologies as their primary skill gap.  

Skills is not the only important factor when it comes to employees. Culture is too. Only 25% of UK organisations have change management plans for widespread AI adoption. C-Suite executives are the most receptive to embracing internal AI changes. The good news is that motivation is high. Nearly eight out of 10 (76%) say their organisation is embracing AI with a moderate to high level of urgency.  

What next? 

The Cisco AI Readiness Index highlighted some clear challenges for UK businesses to consider as they adopt more AI solutions. We’re confident though that as familiarity and experience of using AI tools grows, so will the ability of businesses to overcome the challenges set out here.  

Further, what the study highlights is broad enthusiasm for AI and the endless possibilities it offers for businesses. Citizens too are enthusiastic and Cisco surveys have shown they are willing to share anonymized data to help improve AI-based apps and services.  

On the policy front, there is no shortage of initiatives. Whether it is the G7 Hiroshima AI Process, the UK AI Safety Summit that took place early November, the UK’s pro-innovation approach to regulating AI, the EU legislative discussions on responsible AI, or the recent US Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI, all share the same ultimate goal: maximising the opportunities of AI but doing so in a way that is secure, ethical and responsible. 

Please check out the Cisco AI Readiness Index and the self-assessment tool to compare your organisational readiness to survey results across common AI challenges and opportunities. 


Matthew Houlihan

Senior Director, Government and Corporate Affairs, UK and Europe , Cisco