By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran, Special Features and Content Assistant Editor

More than ever, businesses in today’s rapidly changing world must adopt cutting-edge digital practices to maintain competitiveness and satisfy ever-evolving consumer needs.

Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have been one of the biggest trends in modern technology, so much that it has even broken into popular culture with various generative imaging and video editing apps based on sophisticated deep learning technologies. From automating mundane chores to creating unique experiences for each consumer, AI has the ability to completely change the way organizations function.

On the business side, we’re seeing content generation, summarization, code generation, and semantic search [as potentials of AI].


Giving his presentation at the 2023 BusinessWorld Economic Forum, Peter Maquera, CEO for Philippines of Microsoft Asia Pacific, cited an example of a recent concert by the popular Swedish group ABBA at the Abbott Theater in New York, which was digitally enhanced to create a better viewing experience for the consumers.

“This is the representation of how increasingly the digital and the real is converging,” he said during his presentation on ‘Digital Trends 2023: The Next Frontier in Digital.’

Mr. Maquera likened the digital concert to what is happening in the metaverse or in Web3, where “digital twins,” or a digital representation of an intended or actual real-world physical product, system, or process, becomes effectively as an indistinguishable counterpart of the actual item for practical purposes. This technology is only seen to become more prevalent, he said, as technology like AI develops.

Automation, and more importantly, employee upskilling, has become one of AI’s most important contributions to society. Driven by AI, workers today can complete mundane jobs faster and more accurately, allowing them more time to devote their attention to more strategic endeavors. Chatbots like ChatGPT, for instance, can answer common consumer questions and so free up human workers from that role. Production times and costs can be cut with the use of automated systems.

In addition, AI may tailor services to each individual client. AI-driven platforms can learn from customer behavior and generate personalized suggestions. Amazon’s recommendation engine, for instance, makes product suggestions based on a customer’s past purchases using machine learning algorithms. Customers are more likely to be satisfied and loyal to a brand that takes personalization to this degree.

Mr. Maquera’s example is the most commonplace — the AI-assisted predictive typing on most modern smartphones. Moving beyond that, the technology has evolved to a point that, simply typing in ingredients like sugar and flour into ChatGPT can allow AI to offer up recipes for baking cakes, even before you ask it to.

From a larger perspective, the massive amounts of data collected by enterprises may be understood more comprehensively with the help of AI. Insight into client habits, market tendencies, and other aspects crucial to running a business successfully can be gleaned through data analysis. For instance, businesses can use AI to sift through sales data and figure out what is popular and what is not. Decisions about stock and advertising tactics can be improved using this data.

“This, then, allows us to process all kinds of data, even unstructured data. And we can simultaneously solve complex problems at the same time. So, we’re moving beyond data. And now we’re actually analyzing, learning, drawing insights on things like videos and audio,” he said.

BusinessWorld President and CEO Miguel G. Belmonte (left) presented a token of appreciation to Microsoft Asia Pacific CEO for Philippines Peter Maquera (right) after his presentation.

Microsoft, he said, has been working with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, since around 2019. Since then, the tech giant has committed over $10 billion to the venture, particularly around developing the language models the technology uses as well as developing supercomputers based on them.

“It was very convenient for us. It’s very complementary. So, here’s a group who wants to ensure AI benefits all of humanity. And that is very complementary to our mission, which is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more,” he said.

“What makes this learning so powerful is it’s scouring billions of web pages on the Internet. Imagine, it’s our collective intelligence. We’ve created a program to learn the collective intelligence of 8 billion people. Why this thing is so smart is because it’s processing so much data.”

The most practical example of how businesses can use the power of AI is in empowering their workforce, whether by automating routine tasks, providing data-driven insights, assisting with workload management, or improving employee learning and performance.

Mr. Maquera brings up the example of customer service, where the typical length of a call is around 15 to 20 minutes. AI-powered chatbots can handle customer inquiries, or even help employees make better decisions by providing them with data-driven insights that can potentially lower that time to five minutes or less.

“Half of us feel like we’re going to lose our jobs,” he said, pointing out the real concerns of workers whose livelihoods are threatened by AI technology. “Fortunately, I think that most of us have a growth mindset. We’re willing to learn. We’re willing to pick AI up and try it.”

“Using AI for searching for answers and having that dialogue on the search, summarizing the meetings, doing analytical work, especially the admin tasks… you can spend more time on your real work. If you don’t want to lose your job, you better learn it and learn how to adapt in the new realm.”

Another point is that AI can assist employees learn new skills and improve their performance. AI-powered training programs can provide personalized learning experiences, adapting to each employee’s individual learning style and pace, which can help upskill employees more quickly and more effectively. AI can also provide real-time feedback to employees, allowing them to adjust their performance and improve their productivity.

Mr. Maquera took this further and brought up the possibility of using AI to assist in improving the education system. AI, he said, has the potential to revolutionize education by providing personalized learning experiences, intelligent tutoring systems, automated grading and assessment, predictive analytics, and language learning tools.

“Let’s upskill and change, and look at our curriculum and how we teach,” he said. “This also applies in business, right? How do we upscale for development purposes, our very own employees so that they can thrive in the world of AI? Microsoft will be coming out and sharing a study on the impact of AI to the Philippines. So, the spoiler for you is we think it’s an uplift of $90 billion to GDP (gross domestic product). That’s a 20% uplift on our economy if we all work together and leverage this capability.”

“Digital intensity bends the curve… and it’s proven time and time again evidenced by Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam; digital intensity bends the curve for faster GDP growth and greater prosperity for all of us. So, Philippines, let’s bend the curve,” he concluded.