Artificial intelligence to play big role in global economy

Economy April 19, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to provide a significant boost for the global economy as it lays the foundation for accelerated innovation throughout the coming decade and beyond, according to consulting firm PwC Thailand.



PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the arrival of AI to transform the way businesses think about their hiring strategies and training plans.

As companies tap into the Internet of Things (IoT), they need to embrace AI technology to “enable ‘smart machines’ to simulate intelligent bahaviour and make well-informed decisions with little or no human intervention”, says a recent PwC report called “Leveraging the Upcoming Disruptions from AI and IoT”.

The report said: “Over the coming years, ongoing advances in AI will have profound impacts on jobs, skills and HR [human resource] strategies in virtually every industry.”

Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, lead partner for PwC Thailand’s consulting practice, said businesses needed to learn how to derive value from both of these technologies or risk losing to their competition for years to come.

“Today’s organisations must have a strategic plan to integrate AI into the IoT networks in order to realise their full potential to drive success,” she said.

According to a PwC report, AI is gaining strong momentum as it allows business to “capitalise on the era of ‘smart machines’” where devices are able to act in real time mostly on their own.

“Also – as with today’s mobile technologies – the pace of adoption by businesses will be augmented by pressure from employees, who will want to experience the same convenience and personalisation of AI applications in their working lives that they’re accustomed to at home,” the report said.

Reimagine the job market

Widespread concerns over some of today’s jobs being automated out of existence have emerged after the advent of AI and machine learning, said Vilaiporn, adding that organisations need to reshape their HR strategies and staff-training needs.

PwC’s report said: “The jobs set to be affected most directly by AI would include roles like personal assistants, cab drivers, retail cashiers, call-centre employees, hospitality staff and bank tellers. And as uptake of AI gains pace and scale, the list of jobs affected by it is set to keep growing.”

Vilaiporn said: “Many of us are still clueless about just how AI is being used today by businesses both large and small.

“Irrespective of whether the technology is a threat to our existence, businesses must learn, adjust and make the most of its evolution. In the near future, we expect AI to become even smarter, faster, more flexible and eventually become the brains of machines.”

Cost management

Meanwhile, Deloitte said yesterday that its annual global survey of chief procurement officers (CPOs) had found that reducing costs and managing risk topped the list of procurement leaders’ business priorities this year.

With uncertainty and growth ambitions being a constant focus in many organisations, the No 1 priority for 79 per cent of CPOs is reducing costs. This is closely linked to 48 per cent wanting to increase cash flow to help fund growth.

Managing risk will also be a strong priority for more than half of CPOs this year (57 per cent). Key global risks cited include weakness and volatility in emerging markets; rising geopolitical risk; the possibility of a renewed euro crisis; spillover effects from any slowdown in China; and uncertainty around the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and outcomes from upcoming UK trade negotiations.

In addition, 54 per cent of respondents reported a resurfacing of procurement risk, which could include price volatility, disruptions in supply, and supplier bankruptcy. This is up from 42 per cent in 2014.

A total of 87 per cent feel that talent is the single greatest factor in driving procurement performance, and 60 per cent of CPOs still do not believe their teams have the skills to deliver their procurement strategy. Yet investment in new talent-development approaches and training remains stubbornly low, with 25 per cent spending less than 1 per cent of their budgets on training.

“A genuine focus on talent entails both the acquisition of new expertise [and] the capability building of existing talent,” said Eugene Ho, executive director for consulting and consumer and industrial-products industry leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia.

The ambition to embrace digital and innovative technology is also apparent in this year’s survey, as 75 per cent of CPOs believe that procurement’s role in delivering digital strategy will increase in the future.

This will be important too, as CPOs report that the impact of automation and robotics on their function will steadily increase from 50 per cent today to 88 per cent in five years’ time, and up to 93 per cent by 2025.