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Business News/ News / Don’t want an AI gap: GSMA CTO

Don’t want an AI gap: GSMA CTO

BharatGPT could potentially bridge the AI Gap in India's diverse linguistic landscape, as part of the lobby group's initiatives for inclusive AI use cases.

Alex Sinclair chief technology officer GSMAPremium
Alex Sinclair chief technology officer GSMA

Global telecom industry body GSMA has expressed concerns over a widening  disparity that threatens to exclude smaller markets from the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) use cases, as most training models are being run by large technology firms, offering only seven foreign languages.

In an exclusive interaction with Mint, Alex Sinclair, GSMA's chief technology officer, said BharatGPT could be a potential solution. An initiative by Reliance Jio in collaboration with IIT Bombay, the generative AI (Gen AI) platform aims to serve speakers of 14-plus Indian languages, including Hindi. 

Sinclair said that other GSMA members, such as SK Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, and Singtel, are already sharing AI models in their respective languages.

'AI largely the domain of large tech players and that's a kind of an oligopoly'

“At the moment, AI is largely the domain of large tech players, such as Google, Microsoft and others, and that's a kind of an oligopoly. It's a very small number of very large players, and the danger is that their focus will be mainly on, say, English or Mandarin, and the rest of the world doesn't get as much attention," Sinclair said. 

“We're very concerned about a new gap. We’ve had coverage gaps, usage gap, inclusion gaps... We don't want an AI gap. We want the benefits of AI for all of our several hundred members over the world, and for all the people, because we don't want it to be just a largely developed-market thing, and people in other parts of the world, who don't get access to the tools, are struggling," he added.

Also Read: Senior execs slow on going with AI-related enterprise changes: TCS study

To address this emerging challenge, GSMA has forged a partnership with the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre, currently engaged in a project focusing on minority or underrepresented languages. This collaboration also involves Veon, which operates in Kazakhstan under the Beeline brand. The announcement of this partnership is scheduled for later this week.

Besides, the industry lobby group, representing 750 telecom service providers globally, has teamed up with IBM to offer courses through the GSMA Advanced initiative. These courses aim to train telecom executives and industry professionals in harnessing the potential of AI and Gen AI, and explore various possibilities and use cases.

“Telcos have been using AI for more than a decade, but it tends to be mainly focused on cost reduction. We genuinely believe that there are real-value opportunities out there as well," he added.

Sinclair also emphasized the importance of over-the-top (OTT) apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Meta, which heavily rely on telecom network infrastructure, to contribute a 'fair share' of the revenues they generate to support the investments made by telcos into network infrastructure.

Also Read: Google regains AI initiative by playing to its strengths

“For us, the key point is balance. You can't have a situation where operators have to invest $1.5 trillion till 2030, and then all the value that's created accrues to somebody else. That's broken (approach)."

The call for a 'fair share' of revenues from internet and streaming platforms mirrors a global trend. Telecom carriers in the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia are urging large internet companies to contribute for using their infrastructure.

In fact, South Korea's SK Telecom and SK Broadband have set a global precedent with a first-of-its-kind agreement with Netflix, wherein the streaming giant has agreed to share revenue for network usage, ending a three-year litigation. 

As part of this agreement, Netflix has also agreed to bundle its offerings for the telecom service providers' consumers without any additional tariff. Similar trends are also emerging in Europe and the US.

For instance, in February, the European Commission released a white paper suggesting the need for fair contributions from big tech companies, amid concerns over a €200 billion investment gap to achieve Europe's 2030 connectivity goals. The EC has invited feedback from stakeholders by June.

Likewise, the US government has proposed a bill, called Lowering Broadband costs for Consumers Act of 2023, which aims to make large internet applications contribute to infrastructure costs in order to reduce broadband expenses for consumers.

“Ideally, the players should get together and sort it out for themselves. But at the moment, the incentives aren't really there, so maybe governments can help provide some of that incentive, and bring the participants to the table." 

According to Sinclair, several governments had begun taking note of the issue.

In India, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing local carriers, has urged the ministry of finance to look into the possibility of a revenue-sharing agreement between telecom operators and OTT platforms, citing potential losses in tax revenues.

Sinclair also underscored the importance of GSMA's open gateway project, which has opened up Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for developers worldwide, developing solutions that can be deployed by telcos across sectors. 

Highlighting the potential of the initiative, he said the APIs could identify and eliminate fraudulent messages, a solution that could benefit banks and other financial institutions. “We’ve launched in Brazil and Sri Lanka, but it's still early days. There can be other high value API's on 5G, for instance, for quality on demand and edge use cases that are more widely deployed."

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Gulveen Aulakh
Gulveen covers both corporate and economy, and policy sections of Mint. She also covers telecom, IT from the corporate side and disinvestment, finance ministry from the economy side. Gulveen finds the rare mix of sectors she covers to be incredibly interesting.
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Published: 15 May 2024, 06:30 PM IST
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