There is a new week on the block — Artificial Intelligence Week. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a disruptive technology that is changing not only how we conduct our businesses, but also how we live.
For the layperson, there are many blind spots in the understanding of AI, and some of these are basic in nature. For the technologists, there is the necessity of finding out how the horizons of AI can be pushed further.
So, there is a need for information about AI at various levels, and an initiative by Microsoft to celebrate ‘Artificial Intelligence Week’ (May 27 to 31) through a series of AI-related events has not come a day sooner. During the Week, there will be free virtual sessions for developers across organisations. Data scientists and AI specialists from companies such as Flipkart, Reliance Jio and InMobi will be participating in the events.
One of the objectives that are sought to be met through this event is bridging the skill gap in AI. From various studies, we learn that talent is a major challenge faced by organisations in their attempts to implement AI effectively.
According to a McKinsey survey, released in November 2018, organisations are addressing this issue by adopting a diversity of approaches to sourcing talent — to quote from the report, “hiring external talent, building capabilities in-house and buying or licensing capabilities from large technology firms.”
Last year, Piramal Glass launched a programme called “Digital Champions” aimed at spotting and grooming in-house talent in AI. It identified professionals from a cross-section of verticals who displayed a capacity for learning AI and machine language through continuous training programmes.
“Fifty members with three to 15 years of experience in processes like quality, production, and sales and marketing are part of programme,” says Vijay Shah, vice-chairman, Piramal Glass. The company also associates with start-ups working in the AI as well as IoT space. Raghav Gupta, director — India and APAC, Coursera, cites how pharmaceutical company Pfizer took a people-first stand while deploying AI.
Pfizer got its executives to attend training that would open their eyes to the possibilities of AI. In 2018, the company organised a string of AI boot camps, and the total number of participants was around 1,000.
Academia and AI
Many academic institutions are working closely with industries to bridge the talent gap in the AI space.
In March, IIT Kharagpur launched a six-month course on artificial intelligence and machine learning for working professionals and engineering students. From this academic year, IIT Hyderabad will be offering a B.Tech. programme in Artificial Intelligence. Similarly, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and TalentSprint are running an executive programme on AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain and Digital Ledger Technologies.
AI for everyone
With rapid advances in AI, there is a need to rethink strategies relating to workforce development.
“Continuous upskilling is not just for tech talent or those currently impacted by AI. AI and emerging technologies require multidisciplinary thinking and creative ideas from every corner of an organisation, to move beyond just technical possibilities,” says Gupta.
He adds: “Whether you are a product manager, salesperson, financier or health professional, an understanding of how to apply AI to your work, or to problems in your organisation can help surface potential use case and opportunities to deploy the right technology. CEOs and business leaders have to not just understand how AI adds value to the business, but also the ethical and privacy issues surrounding the technology,” says Gupta.―The Hindu