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T&T’s Future with AI

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad – April 10,  2019

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) may seem a long way into the future for Trinidad and Tobago, local businesses have been capitalizing on the technology to remain competitive and the average consumer, though largely unaware, has multiple interactions with AI daily.

As part of the company’s strategic plan, communications solutions provider, bmobile, is already technologically prepared as AI becomes more widespread.

According to Hassel Bacchus, TSTT’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), the company’s Network Evolution Programme has, at its core, designs that include AI operationally and those that are at a state of readiness for AI capability. “So, in many instances, it is more about utilization and application rather than upgrade,” Bacchus noted.

Understandably, a major concern and the apprehension toward the adoption of AI is the fear of losing one’s job to a computer programme or robot. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that while 33% of Americans are enthusiastic about AI’s integration into the workplace, a whopping 72% worry about a future where AI can do many of the jobs that humans currently perform.

TSTT’s CTO explained, “In the customer interface space, many of the systems are being replaced and, again, AI is at the heart of the design as it makes interaction quality and content more consistent and predictable.”

It’s only natural to ask – “What jobs are likely to be affected by AI?”

It all depends of the type of work an AI programme can learn and, as businesses begin to rely more heavily on the technology, this information can help people and economies prepare for the changes ahead.  In a 2018 study, Erik Brynjolfsson, Daniel Rock and Tom Mitchell noted, “Tasks within jobs typically show considerable variability and ‘suitability for machine learning’ while few – if any- jobs can be fully automated using machine learning.” As it turns out, automating particular elements of a job; namely routine tasks, often increases productivity and quality of output by allowing employees to focus on high level jobs that require greater attention.

The research stated that mechanical drafters, credit authorizers and brokerage clerks are among the jobs likely to be replaced by AI Technology. While one may say that these jobs can be handled relatively straightforward by algorithms, the study also identified concierges and funeral directors in the lineup. However, the social element required for the latter makes the inclusion seem a bit odd. After all, concierges are responsible for more than just bookings; they are a key part of the hospitality experience, and while empathy is expected, grief counselling is an unwritten part of the service provided by funeral directors.

Another study determined that telemarketers, couriers, book keeping clerks and Computer support specialists may be among those negatively impacted by AI. On the opposite end of the spectrum, as people crave experiences, AI may make event planners even more valuable which is good news for the country that hosts the greatest show on earth.

Globally, 83% of businesses say that AI is a strategic priority for their businesses, and despite the skepticism, research from Gartner revealed that AI is actually creating more jobs than it is destroying. By 2025, there will be an estimated net increase of over 2 million jobs, at all levels, as a result of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

As Bacchus puts it, ‘Successful deployment of AI in any space requires complementary business processes, so it is not just about technology.” The key lies in capitalizing on AI to increase productivity, increase efficiency and deliver greater value and service to customers.


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