The impact of COVID-19 on AI adoption
Undeniably, the unprecedented COVID 19 crisis has wreaked havoc across the globe, pushing world economies into prolonged lockdown and the business world to a screeching halt. Widely seen as the worst global economic fallout since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unfathomable COVID 19 crisis has deeply impacted lives of millions across the globe and India is no exception.
The sudden and disruptive onset of crisis has ripple effects on a wide range of industries as well. Though industries such as healthcare, aviation, hospitality, travel & tourism, etc. are the worst-hit, other industries ranging from automobiles to banking, technology to pharma, media to consumer electronics are also being badly affected. While industries are grappling with the fallout of the crisis, some of the advanced technologies abruptly become mainstream in India. It’s well said that ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies a great opportunity’; the deadly crisis has opened up new vistas of opportunities for the technology sector in general and Artificial Intelligence in particular. While India, along with other global economies, is on its way to recovery from the crisis, AI is poised to revolutionize various industries through its innovative solutions.
Adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the adoption of AI technology has grown exponentially. AI began to play a pivotal role in mitigating the effects on the healthcare sector during the time of the crisis. AI technology has been instrumental in detecting & diagnosing the virus, predicting the evolution and tracking the spread of infections. Besides, there are also other wide array of applications of AI technology such as fast-tracking research on drug discovery, slowing down the spread of infection through contact tracing as well as assisting in recovery. The technology has also eased administration burden of the sector by automating the processes, organising loads of data, prioritizing tasks, creating automatic clinical notes, etc. This resulted in enhanced ability of doctors and caregivers to focus on treating an increased number of patients.
Besides the healthcare sector, AI has been revolutionizing various industries to uphold business resilience. To maintain business continuity during the prolonged lockdown, many industries began to digitize their products and services to reach their potential customers in all possible ways. Education sector has started to use AI big time while even online education start-ups began to offer personalised services in line with the needs and specific requirements of the students. COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the need to transform the conventional education system into one driven by technology. Apart from changing the learning methodology, AI-powered machines also enable educators in a number of ways such as, tracking student performances, identifying gaps in teaching techniques, automating mundane administrative tasks, etc.
The services sector also leveraged AI-enabled chatbots and virtual assistants to improve customer service, reduce costs and address complex customer queries. Banks enhanced their digital outreach to customers to limit the impact of the crisis and help customers in distress. They have transitioned to remote sales and service teams, launched a suite of digital tools, new products and services to help their customers manage debt, adjust budgets, and avail new government programs. Though the technology sector suffered due to low IT spending in recent times, this crisis offered an opportunity for the sector to improve its AI capabilities and help customers sail through the crisis. Besides, a couple of other industries with high end-user touch-points such as insurance and retail are also leveraging AI driven technologies to automate their processes, communications and improve decision making.
It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant mobility restrictions has brought in significant changes in consumer behaviour and preferences and there has been increasing usage of digital services. Majority of people who began to use digital channels during lockdown are also likely to continue even after things return to normal. To contain the impact of the crisis, organisations, be it big or small, are also increasingly digitising their products and services.
According to a Mckinsey report, pandemic has dramatically catalyzed digital transformation and companies have leapfrogged five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks. Given its ability to automate services, boost efficiency, and reduce operational costs, organisations have geared up to leverage AI technology at large. However, keeping in view the requirements of Indian audience, India needs to develop IT platforms that are Made in India and Made for India. Indian IT companies should come forward to address challenges that are so unique to the country keeping in mind the volume of services required here.
This homegrown challenge has resulted in the need for growing usage of AI technology across various industries and has drastically surged the demand for AI professionals with relevant skill-sets. AI-enabled solutions require frequent maintenance and constant intervention by AI professionals such as data scientists and data engineers, to support various applications in their successful implementation. According to Gartner, AI would open up approximately 2.3 million job opportunities. In an attempt to train participants in relevant technical skills and cater to the rising demand for AI professionals, leading Indian academic institutes are partnering with private players to offer a host of online certificate based courses. For example, IIT Ropar has collaborated with TimesTSW to launch a 6 months programme – Post Graduate Certificate Programme in Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning – which also offers exclusive benefits of alumni status that will help professionals make a career head-start.