Pandemic will prompt businesses to spend on digital transformation, experts say

Investment in critical infrastructure will be essential, especially in developing countries, Dell executive tells GMIS panel

Global spending on artificial intelligence systems is expected to hit $97.9bn by 2023, according to IDC. Reuters
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The Covid-19 pandemic has hurt businesses but experts say it will prompt them to invest in advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and 5G to protect their operations in the future.

Companies that invested in digital tools are handling the crisis better than those that have not, a virtual panel discussion at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit heard.

“We are working with AI in order to optimise production, planning and ultimately the efficiency and effectiveness of our sales force ... in order to address where demand will be generated,” Pier Paolo Tamma, senior vice president and chief digital officer of Pirelli, said.

The Italian tyre manufacturer’s digital transformation programme has provided it with the data and insights to adjust plant capacity and supply chains, Mr Tamma said.

We are working with AI in order to optimise production ...

The amount spent on AI systems worldwide is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 28.4 per cent from last year’s $37.5 billion (Dh137.7bn) to $97.9bn in 2023, according to the International Data Corporation.

John O’Shea, head of business intelligence and transformation at Dell Technologies, said the pandemic had highlighted the growing importance of AI in the optimisation of business operations.

“You have to gather more insights using technology ... so you can better prepare yourself for the future,” he said.

However, experts said a potential digital divide could occur if the introduction of the technology is uneven in different countries.

Better co-ordination between governments and businesses is required to prevent a widening of the divide, resulting in a situation where developing countries are left behind, panellists said.

Mr O’Shea said digital infrastructure investment was also essential for development.

“Nearly 46 per cent of the global population has no internet connection ... 5G technology will be crucial moving forward and we have to ensure balanced distribution.”

Mr Tamma said Pirelli has learnt valuable lessons from the pandemic that would help it deal with other crises in the future.

“What we have learnt this year from applying digital technology is that we can leverage the power of data more to make better decisions,” he said.

“This is a very big game changer ... to enhance your business and adapt to what is happening in the market.”

The third edition of GMIS, an initiative by the UAE and the UN’s Industrial Development Organisation, was scheduled to be held in Hanover in April but is now taking place virtually because of the outbreak.

The first edition of GMIS was held at Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in 2017, with more than 3,000 leaders from government, business and civil society in attendance.