PHL should emerge as world leader on AI use in call centers, expert says

by Business Mirror  | 12 September 2023 | In The News

A photo of Sanjay Sarma, the dean of Asia School of Business

The rapid progression in the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) can no longer be denied or ignored and Philippine corporations may have to adjust or be left behind.

Sanjay Sarma president, CEO and dean of the Asia School of Business, said AI is going to replace jobs. However, he said the Philippines should emerge the country that leads the world on how to use AI, at least in call centers.

“It will put some people out of work, but at least you define the rules of how it works,” Sarma said.

“In the Philippines, it has to be a national effort. The government needs to be really, really, really cognizant, that this is an epic moment. It’s like, you know, climate change is going to damage the environment, it’ll hurt a lot of people, this is going to hurt a lot of people. This is technology change, just like climate change.”

Sarma, also a professor of mechanical engineering and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said AI is developing at an unprecedented pace and will be everywhere soon.

“I’m telling you. It’s not 10 years; its one or two years. The reason is that for these transforming technologies, there are now lots of companies working. And there’s millions, hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on it,” he said.

While older and successfully adopted technologies such as automated teller machines took about 15 years to be widely accepted, people no longer have the luxury of time with AI.

In the case of ATMs, Sarma said the immediate concern was that bank tellers would lose their jobs.

“But that did not happen. In fact, bank tellers did something more advanced, which is selling mortgages and things like that. The job changed. So they had to become cognitive. They did the more cognitively advanced tasks and ATMs did the cash. But it took 10 years or 15 years. The problem here is moving very fast.”

“I mean, chat GPT only appeared in December or November 2022. We are now in September 2023. It now has more than 100 million users,” he said.

To adapt to changes that will be brought by the use of AI, Sarma said local industries like the business process outsourcing sector will need to upgrade more into the technology space.

“You can’t be at this level, you have to go up, because the attack comes from below. It’s like a tiger, you know, it’s chasing you, you climb a tree, the tiger learns to climb the first 10 feet, well, you have to climb higher. So you have to go higher up in the cognitive stock to go higher,” he said.

Sarma is a leading authority in AI, Internet of things and education. The ASB, established in 2015 by Bank Negara Malaysia in collaboration with MIT Sloan School of Management, aims to be a premier business school that develops transformative and principled leaders who will contribute to the advancement of the emerging world, particularly in Asia.

He teaches there alongside Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Eli Remolona.

Originally published by Business Mirror