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Businesses and citizens in Hong Kong are optimistic about the potential of AI to help people and improve lives, according to Google's latest research. 

The majority of Hongkongers believe AI is a positive force for society, with only two percent of residents perceiving AI as a threat to people (such as through job losses).

Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents cited ease and convenience as the key reasons for adopting AI, including smart translation (80%) and route optimisation (79%) as the most frequently used AI-powered products and services.

"Encouragingly, Hong Kong residents and businesses are optimistic about AI, and are eager to learn and master AI knowledge to stay competitive. This lays a good foundation for a smarter digital city,” said Leonie Valentine, managing director for sales & operations at Google Hong Kong.

On a business level, based on a strong belief in its business potential, optimism about the future application of AI also runs high, with 78% of the respondents agreeing AI is beneficial and can improve quality and efficiency. 

Even amid difficult economic conditions brought by the pandemic, businesses recognise the value of investing in AI. 

Nevertheless, there has not been much deployment of AI services in most businesses in Hong Kong. They are mostly still in exploration mode, experimenting with different use cases. They have yet to roll out their AI processes at scale, with most AI projects confined to specific teams rather than distributed across functions or the enterprise.

Financial gaps (56%), knowledge gaps (51%) and talent gaps (50%) are barriers for adoption. While almost half of businesses have a data strategy for the company in place, less than one in three business currently operates an in-house data warehouse or seeks to enrich data from third-party sources.

It doesn't come as a surprise that finance and technology and innovation businesses are the most AI-ready among all sectors as they have better-developed infrastructures for capturing data and place a higher priority on improving products and services, and customer experience. Even so, according to Google, they are not yet set up to realise the full value of the data they collect.

Additionally, small to medium-sized businesses are at the very start of embracing AI.