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How will AI impact the future of businesses and society?

Senior Journalist Gautam Srinivasan was in an insightful discussion with Dr Rimjhim Agarwal, Co-Founder and CTO, Brainsight; Lorenzo Bavasso, Data and AI director at BT Global; Senthil Ramani, Growth Markets Lead, Accenture Applied Intelligence; Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay and Sanjay Gurbaxani, Global Digital Innovation Lead and Regional CIO in Shared Services Leader AP, Middle East and Africa at Mondelez International.Premium
Senior Journalist Gautam Srinivasan was in an insightful discussion with Dr Rimjhim Agarwal, Co-Founder and CTO, Brainsight; Lorenzo Bavasso, Data and AI director at BT Global; Senthil Ramani, Growth Markets Lead, Accenture Applied Intelligence; Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay and Sanjay Gurbaxani, Global Digital Innovation Lead and Regional CIO in Shared Services Leader AP, Middle East and Africa at Mondelez International.

To help businesses strategize effectively for their AI utopia, Mint and Accenture jointly organised a high-powered panel discussion with thought-leaders from across industries as a precursor to the latter’s Applied Intelligence Week celebrations.

AI is not just a buzzword anymore. A research report by Accenture indicates that AI has the potential to add $957 billion, which represents 15% of India’s current gross value added (a close approximation of GDP), to India’s economy by 2035. A multisectoral implementation of AI will open newfound economic opportunities that would otherwise not exist.

At a time when India is trying to rekindle productivity and growth, AI promises to fill the gap. AI can boost profitability and transform businesses across sectors through systems that can learn, adapt and evolve with changing times. Such systems are increasingly important in a post-pandemic world where scalable AI solutions may be able to help organizations be prepared even during unprecedented situations.

As organisations are working hard to re-architect themselves by changing their business models and technology architecture to survive in the pandemic world, it is time for them to invest in scalable AI solutions to achieve their goals faster. At the same time, technologists and businesses across the world have to advocate for the responsible use of AI. They must evaluate the unintended impact that AI can have on their employees, customers, and the society at large before they set themselves on the path to become AI-enabled powerhouses.

To discuss these themes and help businesses strategize effectively for their AI utopia, Mint and Accenture jointly organised a high-powered panel discussion with thought-leaders from across industries as a precursor to the latter’s Applied Intelligence Week celebrations.

The esteemed panel included:

● Dr Rimjhim Agarwal, Co-Founder and CTO, Brainsight

● Lorenzo Bavasso, Data and AI director at BT Global

● Senthil Ramani, Growth Markets Lead, Accenture Applied Intelligence

● Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay

● Sanjay Gurbaxani, Global Digital Innovation Lead and Regional CIO in Shared Services Leader AP, Middle East and Africa at Mondelez International

The panel was moderated by senior journalist, Gautam Srinivasan.

A Pivotal Time for AI

Organisations understand the importance of AI and are beginning to see its positive impact on their business. Senthil Ramani, Growth Markets Lead, Accenture Applied Intelligence, said, “in 2019, We did a study of 1500 CEOs and executives around the world and found that 76% of leaders agreed that if they did not adapt to AI in the next 5 years, then they are out of business. According to our latest post pandemic research “Make the Leap, Take the Lead," by stepping up investments in cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, organsiations technology ‘Leaders’ are now growing revenue at five times than those who have not made these strategic investments." He spoke about how leaders across the board have started using words such as commerce AI, conversational AI, and social AI in their annual reports. “AI is no more an item on the wishlist. AI is a regular boardroom topic," he added.

“It's a pivotal moment for AI because it's a moment in which we are moving from companies doing pilot projects around AI to actually investing and trying to scale up.", said Lorenzo Bavasso, Data and AI director at BT Global.

Agreeing to this, Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay said, “What used to be an object of romance has become a reality now. An engine for this change has been data."

As more and more AI driven solutions emerge, implementation becomes smoother and more seamless. This is what allows more organizations to embrace AI without threatening the existing systems and processes. Talking about the growth of AI, Dr. Agarwal remarked, “We are witnessing double deployment of AI, year-on-year. It is amazing how easily people are deploying AI- for automating as well as for exploring new domains and business models."

Bridging the Gaps

Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya brought a grassroots-level perspective on the state of AI in India and how the country could become a talent hub for the world. He said, “In academics, we need fertile minds for creating ideas and implementing them… Everybody talks about mathematics, physics, science being important, but humanities and social sciences also must be given lots of importance because when we create AI systems we try to emulate and simulate what human beings are good at. This needs observing human beings and looking at their data."

Dr Agarwal touched upon the synthesis of AI and healthcare in India, “AI in India is still in the path of getting that trust and validation when it comes to healthcare because even if AI is now working at the level of humans taking some of the decisions, they will be required to generate a lot of evidence around.... In India, the number of medical professionals is way lesser than what our population requires. This gap can be fulfilled with AI. For doctors, AI can be an assistant."

Businesses need to be smart in terms of procuring and training the right talent to create value for their stakeholders and drive broader economic growth. Sanjay Gurbaxani drove home that point through his experience with global markets by saying, “Studies say that 75% of all the applications by 2025 will be on low code no code. Companies need an internal set of users who are at the edges of their business, who have no technological background but are tech-savvy to migrate to this platform…. It has endless use cases. You can leverage these capabilities anywhere and everywhere.... Gone are the days when you take one market and then another one and then 4 years from now you will cover 25 markets. But now once you learn in one market, you immediately take it to 25 markets in 12 months."

Value Creation for a Larger Ecosystem

Trust becomes one of the most critical levers when technology partners help create value for clients as illustrated by Lorenzo Bavasso, “To become a trusted partner you need to act in a way that is more dynamic. And that is where platform businesses start to come into the picture because you move from a very transactional to directional value chain to a connected ecosystem. You, provider, customer- everyone becomes a partner. And the platform becomes a very data-rich place. So, AI and data utilisation on that platform is what makes you super effective and intelligent."

AI in India is still to achieve a certain level of trust and validation, when it comes to healthcare. So, how do we overcome this challenge? Dr. Agarwal pointed out, “The best way is to do multiple comparison pilots with hospitals, clinics and doctors all around India. There is one validation that happens at the customer level and another validation in terms of clinical accuracy."

“We call ourselves applied intelligence and our purpose is to enable organisations to make better, faster and more confident decisions," said Senthil Ramani. “Our mission is accomplished only when enterprises are able to apply AI and derive the right insights. Our focus today is to help implement AI at scale", he added.

Developing responsible AI

An industry report says that through 2022, 85% of AI projects are going to throw erroneous results because of bias in data algorithms. Senthil Ramani stressed the importance of marrying AI with governance, “I believe that technology is moving so fast that governance is yet to keep up with it… In response, organizations should i) set up governance around responsible AI, ii) look at responsible AI not as an event but a life cycle, and iii) build source code and guidelines that can actually help."

Lorenzo Bavasso added his perspective on the issue as well, “AI is becoming so ubiquitous so fast that you can't responsibly control it... Organizations need to increase the level of literacy; people need to understand more about its implications because there is nothing in AI by itself. You need to give inputs and then AI generates output. Both input and outcome are not made by the team that develops AI, but by businesses organizations, or governments."

Importance of rising talent

In 2016 India produced 2.6 million graduates with STEM skills. The new talent pool is the country's biggest asset to drive innovation. The youth sees AI as panacea for all business problems and, perhaps, with good reason. They are building the foundation for global businesses to make their AI-fueled dreams come true. Dr Pushpak Bhattacharya explained, “Students have always been excited by the concept of AI because of the intellectual angle and the exciting possibilities. What is new now is the presence of data which makes it possible to implement things quickly. Embedding AI in very mundane things makes it more excitable, efficient, and scalable."

However in terms of skilled, employable workforce, Dr Agarwal cautioned that there is still work to be done, “There should be more AI curriculum in colleges because when we conduct recruitment drives, we find students from computer science background struggling to grasp the basics of machine learning. More and more collaboration should happen between institutions and corporations which is very limited right now."

Sanjay Gurbaxani added that his organisation is already empowering the millennial talent pool, “Within our company we have a millennial alliance which is a digital talent pool we have across the enterprise. No matter which functions they sit in, we are giving them the tools based on low code no code."

“At Accenture, we spend nearly a billion dollars every year on training our people. We work with MIT, Alan Turing Institute and more. Academic connects are really important for us because AI is a fast-paced technology. Also, our labs are equipped with the right deep-learning technologies that allow for thoughtful experimentation," said Senthil Ramani.

The way forward

The world of AI presents unbound opportunities for businesses to scale up, drive value for their stakeholders, and generate a positive impact for society. While there is an exciting talent pool for organizations to leverage, organisations need to put in place the right governance mechanisms as they scale AI.

These conversations are part of the Accenture Applied Intelligence Week from July 26th-July 30th, 2021. The 5-day event is a big shout-out to Accenture’s best-in-class talent for the data and AI domain, the company’s unique culture of inclusion and innovation, and its vision for the future. Several senior industry leaders, renowned data scientists, academics, Accenture leadership, and budding developers will be part of the myriad sessions through the week. The discussions range from the future of AI and data science, the role of women in the AI world to career opportunities in the field of AI and Data Science. In addition the event will feature the grand finale of a hackathon wherein participants will present innovative AI solutions that help solve real-world problems.

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