Last month, Anna Whitlam People and host Rio Tinto were honoured to have Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO, Chancellor of RMIT University, Chairman of nbn™ Australia and a Director of Tabcorp, lead a roundtable discussion on “Our Digitally Enhanced Lives in the 2020s”.
As a former CEO of Telstra, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and Australian Academy of Science, there are few that are more qualified to speak on the topic.
Dr Switkowski discussed the biggest inventions of the past decade, what has changed in the technology field and what we can expect to change going forward. Will we be able to keep up? How will our lives be improved?
This got me thinking about corporate affairs, our client’s business operations and the role that technology and for that matter, advances in technology have in the way we do our jobs and will do so in the future.
How can we ensure that our roles are as relevant in the future as they are today? How can we leverage technology to do our jobs and serve our clients better and how do we maintain focus when the future is an unknown?
Although still a developing technology, we are already seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming an accepted method to produce and disseminate information for making informed business decisions across a variety of industries. Last year we saw Google’s AI bot AlphaZero beat the world champion player of Chinese chess-style game, Go, having taught itself the game in just a few hours. AI, once the plotline of a science-fiction novel is now an everyday reality.
For years we have spoken about a digital revolution and a data driven society, but we didn’t know what to do with all of this digital data. Now we have AI which is taking data and using it to create meaningful output and experiences. AI removes ambiguity, emotion and error from decision making and as this technology evolves, this process will only get stronger.
The main business uses for AI are cost reduction, revenue enhancement and customer engagement. We are seeing these same strategies utilised in industries such as in manufacturing to optimise product range and quantities, in marketing to target specific customer sets, in service-based industries to improve customer experience and in the medical field to diagnose patients and predict outcomes.
The financial services industry has been leading the use of AI. A Deloitte study published in August of this year, shows that the majority of financial services businesses are actively planning for and engaging in AI activities.
If used ethically, AI will remove a lot of the ambiguity that so often finds businesses in hot water. Because AI relies on data, facts are more readily available, leaving less potential for incorrect data to be quoted or shared. Customer service using bots results in uniformity and the ability for human error reduces. We are also seeing AI being used to improve environmental initiatives such as pinpointing overuse of carbon and assisting organisations to reduce their emissions.
If AI is used unethically or the system fails (e.g. a data breach) the community is not going to tolerate this. The public is wary of companies and their ability to store and use their data in contextual and meaningful ways. We have seen this recently in the community strongly voicing their opinion against MyHealth Record, a system innocuously designed to enable easy data sharing of people’s medical records among medical professionals.
However, many people in society don’t trust the storage of their private data and the potential implications if it is misused. In this example, we can see that trust is going to take a bit longer to build before AI becomes a commonly accepted technology. Trust is the essential element sustaining the relationship between AI and business reputation management – the two cannot exist without trust.