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Latest Research: Albeit Being Afraid Of It, Small Entrepreneurs Would Use AI

Budapest, October 17, 2023 15:00

Most micro and small businesses – although they have reservations – have realized that artificial intelligence also has an impact on the operation of businesses, and must be taken seriously. Telekom's recent, representative research* revealed that, although the respondents do not think that AI is inevitable, they already see it as possible to be integrated into their operations in many areas.

Three-quarters of micro and small businesses would like to try it, and a third of them would even pay for a useful AI solution, according to Telekom's latest research aimed at micro and small businesses. Although they do not see AI as inevitable for the time being, there is also the opinion that they will be left behind if they do not use the technology - every second respondent fears this. The telecommunications company, with the help of the research firm BellResearch, asked 318 micro and small entrepreneurs operating in the fields of agriculture, industry, commerce and services about their opinion on artificial intelligence.



The recent research revealed that only two percent of respondents had never heard of artificial intelligence. According to their own judgment, 56 % roughly know what the term means. And 35% of them think they are fully aware of what it is. At the same time, the results also reveal that many small entrepreneurs think of AI as any digital solution that somehow works automatically without human intervention, while in other cases they do not necessarily recognize that a given solution uses artificial intelligence. The awareness of individual AI solutions is higher among business managers with a higher education or under the age of 50. However, this difference becomes significant when it comes to businesses actively using AI-based solutions and not, for example, communicating of virtual assistants from other service companies.

According to the research, when they hear the term artificial intelligence, they mostly associate it with development, opportunities (31%) and automation, robotics (18%). With 23%, ChatGPT leads the field in terms of the popularity of specific AI applications. At the same time, there are relatively many people, 21%, who could not name any specific application in the area. When, however, the question referred to a specific application, it turned out that most people had already encountered artificial intelligence in some form, mostly some kind of chatbot (66%), or perhaps a digital voice assistant (58%). Every second respondent still has experience with ChatGPT or Google's Bard.

Fears also appear in connection with artificial intelligence: many (69%) fear that small entrepreneurs may lose their jobs due to artificial intelligence. At the same time, respondents named excessive dependence on technology (76%) and lack of human supervision (74%) as the greatest danger.

"As long as you can control it and you have the switch in your hand, it's not that serious a danger. […] As an owner, as a manager, I always have to see what is happening. So human control should never be lost. " answered the head of one of the interviewed companies to the research question examining the dangers.

At the same time, it should also be noted that if the respondents expressed their fears about AI technology in relation to their own business (and not to businesses in general), then they voiced their concerns in a smaller proportion. 37% agreed that many entrepreneurs could lose their jobs due to artificial intelligence, while 30% said that solutions based on AI technology are not yet mature enough to be used for business purposes.

The gap between actual use of (12%) and openness to using (88%) artificial intelligence is still huge. And as to what area would entrepreneurs use artificial intelligence in, there is interest primarily for solutions involving direct cost savings or increased income, while respondents would use artificial intelligence less in direct customer relations. When asked what a micro or small business could use AI for, the vast majority answered that repetitive, boring tasks can be easily automated with its help. They would see a place for the application of the technology in connection with the creation of website texts, marketing campaigns, messages, graphics, videos, visual designs or even in connection with writing reports, as well as in the field of accounting and invoicing. Overall, 53% of those surveyed believe that the use of AI-based applications would have a positive impact on their business.

It is definitely a remarkable result that while the majority of micro and small businesses would try AI, about a third (34%) would even pay for an AI-based solution that they consider useful. However, only one company manager out of twenty thinks that they would not need help using the technology. More than half of the surveyed businesses would look for professional support (external consultant, telecommunications company), while those who would seek help in-house, from family and friends or on Internet forums are in the minority.

In general, only larger enterprises employing more than 10 people have concrete development plans in the field of digitalization (25%). In addition, 30% of those with specific plans already use an AI solution, compared to an average value of 17% for micro and small businesses. So, businesses that already use AI continue to develop their IT systems at a much higher rate than average and move to an even higher level of corporate digitalization.

" We have been paying attention to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises for years: through our Telekom Hello Biznisz platform, we help them with our service development experience, education, and by showing real entrepreneurial examples, which can represent significant progress for them not only from a digital point of view, but also from a business point of view. As an expert partner, we also want to help them in the AI world so that they can navigate more easily and not be alone in this new terrain. The vast majority of small entrepreneurs feel that they need advice regarding the introduction of AI-based solutions. It is a privilege to have earned this trust and that, according to the research, two-thirds of them would welcome Telekom's support in this regard." - said Tamás Sipos, head of the Telekom SMB segment.

"We consider it important to help small businesses experiment with new technology, and we encourage them to do so in our new campaign. In addition, to help them from a business point of view during the experiment, we will give them our radio advertising spots for one day on one of the largest national radio stations, for their advertising spots created with AI." - emphasized Mária Nyiri, Telekom’s SMB segment communication lead.

AI spots for small entrepreneurs on the radio

For years, Telekom has been committed to supporting the digital development of SMEs, so it also stands by them as an expert partner in the field of AI development. In its current campaign, the telecommunications service provider encouraged businesses to create their own radio advertising text with the help of artificial intelligence, experiencing how AI solutions can possibly be incorporated into the operation of a small business. At the same time, it was also requested that the entrepreneurs themselves take a role in finalizing the texts. However, it was not only businesses that experimented during the project: the spots re-generated with the AI voice of the narrator of the Telekom commercials can be heard on October 18 on one of the largest national radio stations, after Telekom provides the advertising space to more than 100 winning entrepreneurs who meet the tender requirements. Nearly 170 applications were received during the one-week application period.

During the project, Telekom cooperated with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, including the TMIT department of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. For the spots, the text-reading AI technology developed by SmartLab operating at TMIT was used in order to allow as many advertisements as possible to appear on the radio, since the narrator could not have recited so many advertisement texts, only in a longer period of time. During the project, the work with Telekom's narrator was continuous, and their goal was to make the AI commercials recognizable, so that everyone knows that these are the commercials generated by artificial intelligence that can be heard on the radio.

* Source: Research carried out by BellResearch on behalf of Magyar Telekom (quantitative representative research conducted among micro and small businesses, on a sample of 318 entities, with telephone questionnaire data collection [CATI] that took place in September 2023; furthermore, this quantitative research was supplemented by 5 qualitative in-depth interviews, also conducted in September 2023, the subjects of which were selected from among those who completed the questionnaire of the quantitative research)