TECHNOLOGY companies must revisit their initiatives to enable micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and startups with artificial intelligence (AI), given its productivity and economic benefits, according to International Business Machines (IBM) Corp.

“Our challenge is making it usable, affordable, and maintainable for them,” Aileen Judan-Jiao, president and country general manager for IBM Philippines, Inc., said during a briefing on Tuesday.

“The ones who will embrace AI are our ecosystem partners,” she added, which also includes MSMEs and startups offering subscription platforms supported by AI.

IBM Philippines has started adopting a 100% ecosystem market this year as part of its expansion strategy, Felicisimo S. Torres, technical sales lead for global sales at IBM Philippines, told BusinessWorld.

The company reaches out to startups and enterprises with tailor-fit technology and AI solutions, he said.

“This divides their cost [for AI] across multiple clients,” he added, while also allowing them to scale and grow.

IBM Philippines has enabled five enterprises this year, Mr. Torres said, through WatsonX, its new self-service AI and data platform for businesses equipped with scalable and flexible models to address key concerns with AI.

The local enterprises served include Komunidad, a software-as-a-service startup specializing in weather and environmental intelligence services, and Digiteer, a bespoke software development startup.

It aims to double this number next year, eyeing those in industries such as financial services, manufacturing, retail, education, and transport, Mr. Torres said.

However, he also noted the low level of AI exposure and adoption among MSMEs, which tech companies can help bridge. “We need to make them understand the technologies and demystify it for them to see its potential.”

The International Data Corp. said the Philippines ranked 12th out of 14 economies across the Asia-Pacific region in terms of AI adoption for business and consumer transactions.

The Trade department projected that AI could contribute as much as $90 billion to the country’s economy by 2030.

A report released by technology firm Cisco this month said only 17% of Philippine organizations are ready to utilize and deploy AI, with the majority of them raising concerns about the impact of not adopting these advances.

It added that about 44% of Philippine organizations consider themselves chasers or are only moderately prepared; 35% are followers with limited levels of preparedness; and about 4% are laggards, not prepared to leverage AI at all.

Additionally, the global AI market size is expected to reach $407.0 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 36.2% during the forecast period of 2022-2027, according to a report by analytics firm MarketsandMarkets.

To build trust and adoption, Ms. Jiao highlighted the need for AI to be explainable — with an understanding of its risks, benefits, and overall implications for the organization.

She also mentioned IBM Corp.’s commitment to reskill 30 million people globally by 2030 through its free SkillsBuild online micro-credential platform, alongside “the right context and mindset” to grow the technology. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola