AI is already embedded in consumer products, services and apps that consumers use every day. It is also a foundational technology for many business productivity tools, cloud solutions, and digital marketing platforms which have been widely adopted by enterprises. This has been further enhanced with the COVID-19 pandemic because of which consumers are turning to online e-commerce platforms and relying on indoor entertainment such as movie and music streaming platforms.

In fact, consumers throughout Asia have been embracing the use of AI and are realizing the benefits it brings to their lives. A recent joint study by Google Hong Kong and KPMG, the ‘Smarter Digital City – AI for Everyone’, unveiled the new benchmark ‘AI Readiness Index’. The study shows that 65% of residents expect that AI can help improve society in general, while 63% cite ease and convenience as the key reasons for adopting AI, including smart translation (80%) and route optimization (79%) as the most frequently used AI-powered products and services. For businesses, 78% of businesses believe AI is beneficial and can bring improvements, particularly in improving quality and enhancing efficiency. Similarly, in Thailand, a recent pulse survey of C-Levels shows that 67% of companies have accelerated investment in digitalization since the start of COVID-19. 

These statistics show that consumers and businesses alike are embracing and realizing the need for digital technologies to help, not only improve the comfort of everyday living, but also help alleviate the impact of COVID-19. 

However, what businesses need to be aware of is the impact of COVID-19 on these technologies. AI systems and machine learning technologies learn from historical information. They identify patterns in that information, and they use those patterns to make inferences or predictions about the future state of the world. But no person or machine could have predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would ever occur; and thus, would totally change our behaviors.

In February and March last year, digital shopping baskets were full of face masks, hand sanitizers and paracetamol. That’s something it would have been hard to predict, and thus there were shortages. 

The AI systems that were put in production are often fed with real-time information which enable elasticity and adaptability of the system in the case of normal

changes to the incoming data. Unfortunately, in the event that data are being ushered in at an aggressive and accelerated shift – such as during the COVID-19 pandemic – systems were not able to cope with this massive change.

This means that businesses need to take time to reconstruct AI models to accommodate uncertain scenarios as well as reimagine AI models to predict future scenarios in the new normal. That will allow for sustaining business resilience. 

“COVID-19 has triggered an immense increase in game-changing moments for businesses to adopt the use of digital platforms that are already in the market by customizing to their needs, bypassing the need to build a new platform altogether,” says Siraporn Chulasatpakdy, Partner, Advisory – Head of Management Consulting and Cyber Security, KPMG in Thailand. “It is important to utilize technology to help people better understand, manage and integrate their processes and data, while improving efficiency in the agile environment.”

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