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AI Solutions Shift to Internal Operations, Appen’s Annual AI Report Finds



Appen Limited has released its seventh annual State of AI report, which demonstrates several new findings regarding AI use. Appen is the leading provider of high-quality training data for companies looking to develop AI systems at scale. 

The 2021 report found that there has been a significant year-over-year increase in AI budgets, with a 55% increase from last year. The budgets range from $500,000 to $5 million per year.

The other major finding from the report is that artificial intelligence is moving more into the direction of internal processes as companies look to gain deeper insight into their data.

Mark Brayan is CEO of Appen.

“Insights from this year’s State of AI report clearly indicate that companies are going all-in on AI,” said Brayan. “When we first set out to understand the state of AI and machine learning seven years ago, organizations globally were eager to start AI projects but weren’t making meaningful progress. Today, in a time of transition during the pandemic, AI is considered core to survival, and we see this in the results of the survey – increased budgets, more technologists in charge, and increased reliance on external training data providers.”

A shift is also taking place for AI projects, as the responsibility of such projects moves from business decision makers to technical practitioners, or technologists. This shift is resulting in an increased focus on operationalizing AI projects, and it demonstrates that AI is moving into the management branches of organizations.

Wilson Pang is CTO at Appen. 

“This year’s State of AI report exemplifies how the maturing of AI projects, the desire for faster and greater ROI, and the increased reliance on third-party training data providers like Appen go hand in hand,” said Pang. “High-quality data is the foundation for success for every AI project, and no amount of tweaking of algorithms can negate the consequences of bad data. Companies that want to deliver better results faster understand that third-party training data is a must.”

Key Findings 

Let’s take a look at the major findings from Appen’s 2021 State of AI report:

  • COVID-19: The report found that companies of all sizes accelerated their AI strategies last year due to COVID-19, and this trend will continue through 2021. Companies with an external data provider are twice as likely to accelerate AI initiatives.
  • AI Budgets: Only 26% of companies reported budgets under $500K. The case against lower budgets is that the company then fails to be perceived as a market leader. With budgets at $1 million or more, there is a higher probability of deployment.

  • Decision-Making: Compared to last year, this year sees a higher percentage of technologists responsible for AI decision-making processes.

  • Data: Most organizations are partnering with external training data providers for AI projects. Companies that rely on external data providers are 1.5 times more likely to believe their company is leading others in AI deployment.

  • Disagreements: The report also finds that business leaders and technologists are not yet on the same page when it comes to areas like ethics and interpretability. Technologists are more concerned about ethics, while business leaders focus on interpretability. 

You can read the entire State of AI report here


Alex McFarland is a Brazil-based writer who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence & blockchain. He has worked with top AI companies and publications across the globe.