LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – MENA, DUBAI: STC and Zain Group gave an insight into the impact early artificial intelligence (AI)-based technologies are having on their operations in the Middle East, as a panel of keynote speakers all praised the potential of the technology.
“The promise of AI and telecom is huge,” declared Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Operations at Zain Group (pictured, third from left): “It has the potential to usher in a new era for us; everything from customer relationships to the back-end. Google CEO Sundar Pichar talks of an AI-First world. I don’t think we’re there yet but in the next five years AI will shift into our core business of how we do things.”
Gegenheimer said the operator has launched chatbots in three of its markets in the last three months (with plans to launch across all its eight markets in 2019), meaning more than 50 per cent of chat with live agents is now managed by chatbots.
“It’s also opening up new verticals,” he added. “We launched drones in the last month, and we couldn’t have done that without AI.”
The Zain executive said the next step would be to use AI in care and maintenance operations: “Can we predict when something is going to break and do something about [it]? It will be very interesting to see how this is going to develop over the next few years.”
Cenk Serdar, SVP of Consumer at STC (pictured, far left), revealed the wider benefits of digital technology on the customer experience, claiming that 93 per cent of customer interactions emanate from digital channels in its Saudi Arabia market (albeit much of this is not AI-driven). In the last month, the operator has closed around 33 per cent of its physical stores, while in the last four years the number of call centre calls decreased by 75 per cent.
Serdar wants the industry to use new technology to improve its ability to offer customers personalised services, although he noted regulatory challenges are holding things back.
This was a point picked up on by du CEO Osman Sultan (pictured, third from right): “We have this quest to personalise but we are not there. We are on that roadmap…AI will add a lot.”
It wasn’t just operators encouraged by the prospect of tomorrow’s AI world.
Wael El-Kabbany, MD of Microsoft’s Commercial Enterprise division in MEA (pictured, second from right), hailed AI as something that will “transform every company and everything that is around us.” El-Kabbany stressed the company’s ambition to “democratise AI” so that all companies in the industry can play their part, while warning of “extremely fundamental questions” which need to be addressed around ethical aspects of AI.
For Mohie El-Rafey, GE Healthcare’s CMO for eastern growth markets (pictured, second from left), AI is a technology that will take healthcare “to the next level.”
He used the example of a single patient scan currently relying on the diagnosis from one specific doctor, but a world of AI could mean the scan “is mapped and scaled around the world, leveraging the expertise of thousands of experts.”
“AI is being embedded in all our devices, allowing care givers to make informed decisions in a timely manner. In healthcare, time is the difference between life and death. The more information we can provide, the better care we can deliver to individuals as a whole.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter