Approximately 1000 small business owners in the U.S. and Canada were recently polled by accounting software company FreshBooks about their current and future use of generative AI.

Of the small business owners polled, the majority of whom have between two and five employees, two out of three will try generative AI technology in the next calendar year, and 44 per cent expect to hire fewer people because of AI.

One quarter of those surveyed said they’re already using or testing AI tools like ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Bing. 

Of the 75 per cent of business owners not using AI, three primary reasons were given. The report states, “46 per cent said they were not yet clear on how generative AI could benefit their business. The second highest reason cited was a lack of knowledge, with 32 per cent saying they were unsure of how to begin applying generative AI to their businesses.”

Another 16 per cent said they’re not using AI because they are not technical people.

While hiring may decline for smaller businesses, business owners don’t believe AI will take over their jobs or the jobs of their employees. FreshBooks did note, however, “The larger the business, the more likely owners were to agree that AI will result in employing fewer people.”

Mara Reiff, chief data officer at FreshBooks, said that there’s general anxiety about AI replacing employee’s jobs. She highlighted the two-sided way of thinking small business owners have.

“In the world of small business, it appears that owners don’t feel particularly threatened and don’t believe artificial intelligence can do their jobs just as well as they can,” she said. “On the other hand, their eyes are wide open to the potential of using AI as a support to help them scale.” 

The survey also determined that small business owners are primarily using AI for text generation, with most saying it is used on business websites and social media platforms.

When asked about AI’s future impact, 60 per cent of respondents agreed that “AI will dramatically change their business within the next five years,” noting that the most affected areas will be analytics, marketing, and customer communications.

The study was conducted online this month (May 2023); its margin of error is +/- 5 per cent at 95 per cent confidence.

The post FreshBooks survey predicts increasing use of generative AI in small businesses first appeared on IT World Canada.

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