Companies must be cautious introducing generative AI for consumers, IBM says

Safeguards need to be in place to address privacy and security concerns for the biggest demographic for end-user technology

Mohamad Ali, senior vice president and chief operating officer of IBM Consulting, with the IBM Q quantum computer. Photo: IBM
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US technology corporation IBM is urging companies to be "extraordinarily careful" when introducing generative artificial intelligence for consumers, stressing the need for safeguards to protect them, a top company executive has said.

The technology, which rose to prominence with the rise of ChatGPT, raises concerns ranging from security and privacy to infringement and biases.

Consumers, the biggest demographic for end-user technology, could tend to be "less careful" with new and popular technology, and the responsibility to protect them falls on service providers, Mohamad Ali, senior vice president and chief operating officer of IBM Consulting, told The National.

"There will be some companies who will do it very, very responsibly, and generative AI will do things the right way and they will stay within bounds and guardrails," he said.

"But there will be many companies that will just bring products to the market and there'll be hiccups ... there's this whole other strand of consumer AI where there's a rush to take sort of raw models and use it for consumer applications."

Businesses, meanwhile, expect a plethora of operational benefits, including cost efficiency, sales effectiveness and higher revenue, among others, Mr Ali said.

More crucially, this is prompting chief executives and top-level technology officers to implement measures to safeguard their organisations' users from within, he said.

"Chief executives realise that they have to participate and, in parallel, they have to find a way to do this in a responsible way that's secure, private and governed."

The rise of AI has been meteoric, bringing with it benefits, challenges and perceived risks.

Authorities have been scrambling to regulate the sector as new innovations within AI continue to outpace existing guidelines.

Nearly 42 per cent of enterprise-scale organisations – those with more than 1,000 employees – are actively using AI in their businesses, according to IBM's Global AI Adoption Index 2023, released last month.

Early adopters are leading the way, with 59 per cent of respondents already working with AI planning to boost their investment in the technology, it said.

Enterprises in the UAE, an early adopter of the technology, is second globally with 58 per cent, trailing only India (59 per cent) and ahead of Singapore (53 per cent) and China (50 per cent), the study showed.

Additionally, 65 per cent of IT professionals in the UAE have reported a significant acceleration in AI roll-out over the past 24 months, driving efficiency, innovation and competitiveness in the local market, IBM said.

More than a third of companies in the Emirates also have a comprehensive AI strategy in place, it added.

The UAE's performance is "on the high end" and "consistent with the global activity that we're seeing", Mr Ali said.

The projected value of the generative AI market varies, from $207 billion by 2030, according to Statista Market Insights, to as high as $1.3 trillion by 2032, per data from Bloomberg Intelligence.

The growth is expected to be driven by training infrastructure in the near term and gradually shifting to inference devices for large language models, digital advertising, specialised software and services in the medium to long term, Bloomberg Intelligence said.

"With generative AI, we are seeing incredible productivity gains across a whole variety of business processes," Mr Ali said.

Privacy and security are also increasingly a factor for enterprises when it comes to generative AI. However, the lack of dedication to these will cause pilot generative AI programs to stall, he said.

"Those who have taken this seriously [are] starting to scale and able to bring this to production and get the value," Mr Ali said.

"Going into 2024, we are going to see a large number of these pilots just stall because of this concern."

The upskilling and reskilling of employees to adapt to AI will also be critical as the labour landscape transforms, in line with the future digital economy.

Mr Ali acknowledged that AI is a "risk to certain jobs, but an opportunity for others" to be created from – and this will be important in inclusivity, particularly in communities that are underserved and face the challenge of lack of training for certain jobs.

"If you're coming from an underprivileged community, having a skill like knowing how to use generative AI will differentiate you," he said.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 3:00 AM