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Generative AI tools: How do Australian companies regulate their use?

Published on 17/07/2023 by Andrew Blair

Generative AI tools have rapidly advanced in their ability to create new and original content, but have companies been as quick to ensure safe and proper use of them in the workplace? We look at the use and challenges of generative AI and find out if employees receive guidance on how to take advantage of this emerging technology. 

Organisations analysing the risks associated with generative AI tools

The rapid evolution of generative artificial intelligence (AI) has become a hot news topic, with ChatGPT, Bard, and Dall-E gaining worldwide attention. The conversational AI bot ChatGPT reached one million users in just five days. However, the speed of its uptake may have exceeded the pace at which businesses can evaluate how to use this emerging technology appropriately, responsibly, and safely. This revolutionary technology has entered the workplace, but how are organisations ensuring the appropriate use of generative AI tools?

While there is no AI-specific legislation currently in place in Australia, the Australian government has stated that Australians need to be able to trust that AI will be used ethically, safely, and responsibly. The May 2023-24 federal budget has also pledged a multimillion-dollar investment to support AI business integration. Additionally, the Responsible AI Network and various affiliates are curating AI advice and best practice guidance across Australia’s commercial sector. 

To learn more about the adoption of this technology in Aussie businesses, GetApp surveyed 463 employees to evaluate how they use generative AI tools in the workplace and if they follow company guidelines or regulations. Furthermore, the study looks at the technology's benefits and its impacts on employee productivity. All survey-takers understood the definition of generative AI and use these tools at work. The full methodology is at the end of this report. 

Two-thirds of respondents frequently use generative AI tools at work

Generative AI is being incorporated as a feature to enhance many software products, such as writing assistants or graphic design tools. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see an increasing number of people using this technology in their work. 67% of our respondents said they use generative AI tools at work at least a few times per week, with the remaining participants using them a few times per month.

What is generative artificial intelligence?

Generative artificial intelligence, also known as generative AI or GAI, refers to a type of artificial intelligence (AI) capable of generating new, original content such as images, videos, music, or text. As this technology advances, it typically uses deep learning techniques and neural networks to analyse and learn from large datasets and uses this information to generate content that resembles human creations.

Our survey indicates that text creation and text editing are the most common applications of generative AI technology in the workplace, each used by nearly half (48%) of survey-takers. AI writing tools can either help users to generate content via features such as word suggestions, spell checks, and plagiarism detection or automatically generate text based on minimal user input. 

This use of generative AI to write texts such as emails and reports can be quite generic. However, specialised generative AI tools can aid specific jobs within various company departments. The use of generative AI for analytics and reporting was cited by 35% of employees in our survey, whereas 32% cited its use for image creation, indicating the diverse application of this technology. 

Companies are still exploring the application of generative AI tools

Despite generative AI tools supporting various job functions, 55% of respondents said a considerable proportion of their company isn’t yet using this technology. However, over a third (36%) of employees said a significant percentage of their company actively uses generative AI. 

Furthermore, the majority of companies are at least starting to explore the use of this technology, with a third intensely exploring how best to apply it within their organisation, according to employees. Companies should ensure they prepare adequate guidance to govern its use, especially in departments dealing with sensitive data, such as customer information or intellectual property (IP), where access to data needs to be controlled. 

Pie chart showing the level of importance given to the exploration and application of generative AI

Although many companies have just started to explore the application of generative AI tools, it’s possible that some employees have already adopted them to assist in certain tasks. We wanted to know if employees have informed their company that they use generative AI tools at work and, if not, why?

8 out of 10 employees inform their company about generative AI use

The majority (83%) of employees have told their employer they use generative AI at work, but of those that haven’t, most (42%) haven't done so because they don’t think it’s relevant to inform the company. However, the second most cited reason, by 29% of those employees, is because they are concerned their manager may question the quality of their work. While generative AI has impressive capabilities, tools may have limitations that companies need to understand before implementing this technology.

Generative AI outputs need to be checked to ensure that information is accurate, relevant, up-to-date, and free from bias. While Google has said it doesn’t differentiate between AI and natural content and ranks both according to its E-E-A-T (Experience, Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy) quality rater guidelines, it cautions against publishing AI content on the web that hasn’t first been reviewed by a human editor. Additionally, using generative AI tools risks producing duplicate content, where content has been generated from multiple sources that are either unknown or too numerous to check. A plagiarism checker can be useful for ensuring that content is unique.

Of the employees who have informed their company, the quality of generative AI outputs is monitored mostly through employee feedback via surveys.

Bar chart showing how companies monitor generative AI outputs 

Another key aspect of quality is training; for example, on the types of prompts and inputs to use. To further explore how companies approach the implementation of generative AI tools, we asked respondents what training they had received.

Are companies training employees to use generative AI tools?

Of those employees that have made their company aware of their use of generative AI at work, 21% said they haven’t received training and 40% say they need more training. Generative AI remains a relatively new concept to many employees, and despite the potential benefits of using tools that incorporate this technology, employees may not feel comfortable using them. Conversely, employees who have adopted them in the workplace risk potential misuse without proper training and guidance on their use.

Only 52% who openly use generative AI say their firm has regulations in place

Only around half (52%) of employees who openly use generative AI tools at work said their company has implemented regulations or guidelines, athough a further 34% said their company plans to introduce them. Without adequate controls in place, generative AI outputs risk containing third-party proprietary and personal data, protected intellectual property, or referencing out-of-date information. 

Despite there being no AI-specific legislation yet, Australia’s voluntary ethics principles aim to ensure AI systems respect and uphold privacy rights and data protection. Currently, generative AI is regulated through legislation such as the Australian consumer law, the privacy act, copyright law, and data protection. Companies should ensure compliance with legislation to protect proprietary and personal data. 

How to protect data and privacy when using generative AI

Protecting personal data and adopting ethical practices when using generative AI tools is crucial to maintaining privacy and building trust. Organisations should consider the following points when using generative AI:

  • Read the fine print: Check the generative AI software vendor’s security policy to see if it offers an option to opt out of input data being used or stored
  • Restrict data input types: Avoid using these tools when working with classified and personal data and consider using them only as a supplement to your work when dealing with less sensitive information
  • Update to the latest version: Get the latest bug fixes and security optimisations by performing regular software updates
  • Train employees: Ensure employees know what types of data they can use as inputs, which aspects of their work can benefit from the use of generative AI tools, and company regulations for their use
  • Use cybersecurity tools: Implement cybersecurity software, which aims to prevent unauthorised access to electronically stored data and protect businesses from data theft, malicious data, and system misuse by third parties. 

Of those employees that said their company has implemented regulations or guidelines, 60% said their company has ensured that generative AI tools are used in compliance with laws and regulations by establishing company policies. While nearly a third (31%) of employees said the technology was implemented by the leadership team that put in place a policy for its use, in many cases the impetus came from employee requests. When evaluating possible use cases, firms should ensure adequate governance is in place before approving requests. 

Bar chart showing who decided to start using generative AI tools

Next, we evaluate the benefits of AI in the workplace. How effective are generative AI tools for employees, and have they experienced a productivity boost since the technology's implementation?

Generative AI use is effective for creativity and innovation

The worldwide boom in generative AI comes with opportunities and challenges in the workplace. Most employees (81%) from our survey who use generative AI tools at work, whether they have informed their employer or not, either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ agree the most beneficial aspect of working with generative AI tools is that it saves their company time. 79% of employees agree that working with AI tools helps their businesses develop more innovative and creative work. However, only 58% agree that content generated by AI software is better than human-generated content. 

Three statistics highlighting the most effective aspects for employees using generative AI

Interestingly, only 15% of employees cited productivity as an aspect of their work where generative AI is most effective, making it one of the lowest options selected. It could be that employees consider creativity, innovation, and problem-solving to be more challenging aspects to achieve. In addition, generative AI tools still require specific prompts to achieve a desirable outcome, thus not necessarily increasing productivity.

Employees acknowledge a need for generative AI regulations

Undoubtedly, jobs will evolve with generative AI tools, and that transformation can be viewed as a defining moment in history. While companies may still be exploring and vetting generative AI tools, a company policy can act as a guideline to highlight best practices and potential impacts of misuse. 9 out of 10 respondents agree there should be guidelines to regulate generative AI tools in their workplace, where 48% said there should be some kind of guidelines and 44% said there should be strict guidelines.

The inclusion of generative AI in the workplace has the potential to elevate employee performance. Companies will be able to reevaluate tasks and job functions so that employees can spend less time on tasks that can be automated and more time on intricate tasks. 36% of employees say they have more time to focus on higher-value tasks as a result of job transformation brought about by generative AI. 

In the follow-up article to this two-part series on generative AI tools, we will evaluate the particular use of the AI chatbot ChatGPT and employee concerns around its usage in the workplace. 

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To collect this data, GetApp interviewed 463 Australian employees online in June 2023. The candidates had to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Australian resident 
  • Between the age of 18 and 65
  • Employed full or part-time 
  • Uses a computer/laptop to perform daily tasks at work
  • Uses generative AI tools for their work
  • Must have understood the definition of generative AI

Respondents were provided with the following definition:

Generative AI (GAI) refers to a type of artificial intelligence that is capable of generating new, original content such as images, videos, music, code, or text. It typically uses deep learning techniques and neural networks to analyse and learn from large datasets and uses this information to generate content that resembles human creations. Some examples of generative AI tools are ChatGPT, Bard, and DALL-E.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Andrew is a Content Analyst for GetApp, giving SMEs insights into tech, software and business trends. Interest in entrepreneurship, furthering projects and startups.

Andrew is a Content Analyst for GetApp, giving SMEs insights into tech, software and business trends. Interest in entrepreneurship, furthering projects and startups.