Megatrends continue to disrupt the way we do business and generate value. From offshoring to outsourcing, to robotic process automation (RPA), these megatrends have been challenging business to seize opportunities from various frontlines.
For instance, enterprises are now seizing opportunities in automation and other advancements in technology to be more agile and competitive. At a glance, there seems to be no escaping a future where robots and artificial intelligence (AI) get to perform more and more jobs, as sci-fi films warn.
Artificial intelligence is defined as the capability of machines to imitate human cognitive functions in doing simple to complex tasks. Commentaries and features heralding “the coming of robots”, replacing mundane human tasks, are everywhere in the web.
Undeniably, the use of AI technology is wide-ranging and may range “from medical diagnosis, stock trading, robot control, law, remote sensing, scientific discovery and toy making”. This is according to the Philippine Department of Science and Technology.
What is the state of artificial intelligence in the Philippines and who are the pacesetters of this megatrend in the country?
AI in Banking, Healthcare, and Retail Industries
A research completed by the International Data Corporation (IDC) Philippines in January 2017 estimates that $47 billion will be spent on AI-related applications globally by 2020. The same research estimates that the use of AI will boost a firm’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 69% for the top 3 AI use cases worldwide.
According to IDC, AI is taking more roots in banking, healthcare, and retail. These industries have each spent more than 15% of total industry spending on AI-related applications.
The banking industry, for example, devotes 18% of its spending to AI. The primary investment on AI in the banking industry revolves around artificial intelligence for financial assessments and to assess credit scores.
AI is also being considered to augment customer service and to streamline backroom processes. This is a program already set in motion at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), BDO Unibank Incorporated, and brokerage firm BDO Nomura Securities Incorporated which are all driving investments into chatbots and AI to augment customer service and streamline backroom processes.
In healthcare, AI applications constitute 16% of spending. AI in healthcare focus on rapid diagnostic tools for X-rays and MRIs. AI in healthcare is primarily beneficial due to AI’s promise of accuracy and accessibility. Of course, trust and the human element remain key challenges to AI taking full root in the healthcare sector.
Retail firms, on the other hand, are using AI to create personalized shopping experiences for customers and at the same time analyzing a shopper’s spending history, mood, and expressions.
In addition, IDC predicted that 75% of software enterprises and independent software vendors will include AI functionality in at least one application by 2018.
Government to tap AI
It is noteworthy that AI is among emerging technologies in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. The AI component in the Philippine Development Plan is primarily focused on the manufacturing industry as the government pushes for its “build, build, build” infrastructure agenda.
While the government is aware of the dangers artificial intelligence pose to the BPO industry, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has been tapped to develop an AI program in the Philippines to optimize mass production, particularly in the country’s manufacturing sector.
Impacts On the BPO Industry
Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) chairman Lito Tayag acknowledged that AI presents to new challenges to the industry as automation may wipe out lower-end jobs.
In fact, a Pew Research Center survey of 1,896 experts found that they expect robots and digital agents (collective: artificial intelligence), which cost only a third of the pay of employees in offshore locations such as India and the Philippines, will replace a large number of BPO workers by 2025.
It’s important to note, however, that while AI use is undoubtedly growing worldwide, the speed of adoption would be much faster in more developed countries.
The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) is already reviewing its recently released roadmap for 2022 to take into account not just resources but also new technologies.
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