Accelerating the pace of digital transformation in Asia
With increasing demand for mobile internet services and unprecedented competition from new market players, telcos find themselves in a perfect storm. Survival requires a combination of innovation and an escalation of operational efficiency.
Three key considerations for telcos to achieve successful digital transformation, based on independent research, are “improved organisational agility is at the heart of the process; a more structured approach to digital services development will deliver long-term upside, and that new forms of ecosystem engagement are essential.”
Digital platforms are in demand – not only from the operators looking for tools and applications but from the customers too, who are becoming more sophisticated in how they buy and use services. With the proliferation of emerging digital offerings, operators are looking to leverage the telco ecosystem by developing a wider range of partnerships. With access to a broader portfolio of services, operators can generate more revenue by accessing new market segments and selling partner offerings through new channels.
In the Asian market, bundled offerings from telco operators are increasingly popular, including OTT services, partner product offerings and those from local content providers. In addition, customers are looking to build their own individual personalised bundles – sometimes several different ones within the same household. This demand for flexibility is placing increasing pressure on the capabilities of the existing customer management systems. Digital transformation is critical if operators are to provide omnichannel experience across different channels, empower customers with real-time recommendations and decision making on selected plans and services and an automated fulfilment journey from request to realization.
Customer experience needs simplicity
The pandemic has placed additional pressures on service providers, not only in terms of the increased demand from customers but in ensuring customer safety and security. With physical offices and stores closed in many regions, a renewed focus on experiences that are seamless and simple for the customer is essential.
From onboarding new customers to the raising and resolution of service issues, today’s enhanced digital platform integration capabilities should be designed so that minimal intervention is needed from agents. Self-care apps, chat boards and artificial intelligence-based interactive voice recognition services that combine with machine learning to support customer queries, all minimise human intervention. This saves time and money for the service provider, increases operational efficiency and provides a more convenient ‘on-demand’ service for the customers so they can become self-sufficient.
Customers need to be able to quickly access and benefit from new services, whether they are for leisure, business or health purposes. Telcos need to embrace digital transformation to give the customers control; to make them as independent as possible in achieving access to the services best suited to them.
Modernising to the cloud will win out
IDC predicts that by 2024, 50% of organisations in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) that are modernising their legacy mainframe applications will have modernised the underlying application infrastructure, with 70% turning to cloud as their preferred medium. The flexibility of cloud services, coupled with strong partnerships, means that the speed and magnitude of digital transformation will prove to be a real differentiator in the fiercely competitive Asian market.
This article was contributed by Piyush Mishra, Chief Solution Consultant, Tecnotree
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.