ADB, Grab zoom in on AI opportunities

Image created by DALL·E 3.

AI has been revolutionising businesses, creating new revenue streams, and reducing operational inefficiencies. However, technologists are also sounding the alarm on responsible use of the technology, especially that generative AI is going full steam ahead.

During Zoom’s recent Zoomtopia APAC 2023 virtual conference, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Grab were among organisations that shared their AI journey thus far, as well as how they are dealing with challenges in the space.

According to Stephanie Hung, Chief Information Officer and Director General, Information Technology Department, ADB, the utilisation of AI and analytics is clearly the key to unlocking the bank’s future potential.

The bank, Hung noted, is currently studying the use of generative AI for knowledge consumption.

“We have about 62,000 documents since ADB’s inception in the early ’70s. We actually have project completion reports, development effectiveness reports, and independent evaluation reports, and we’ve amassed a lot of information within ourselves. We want to leverage generative AI to harvest this knowledge and insight so that we can provide better input and recommendations, whether it is for policy conversation or helping developing member countries identify economic opportunities,” she said in a fireside chat.

In a separate fireside chat, Paul-Eric Licari, the Regional Head of Group Business Development at Grab, shared that generative AI is expected to further improve the company’s internal processes, which, in turn, should enhance the overall user experience.

“For example, we’ve been using generative AI to augment internal workflows and processes, so that our people can debug code and conduct queries faster,” he said.·

Overcoming AI challenges

Despite AI’s efficacy in solving many complex enterprise challenges, ADB’s Stephanie Hung expressed concern about the biases in generative AI platforms like ChatGPT and DALL·E.

Stephanie Hung, Chief Information Officer and Director General, Information Technology Department, ADB. Image courtesy of Asian Development Bank.

“For example, when tasked to generate an image of a CEO, the result is often male, and for a nurse, female. These are the inherent biases present in some of these systems,” she cautioned.

Hung, in her capacity as CIO and technologist, emphasised the importance of ensuring biases are not encoded into automated systems. She also raised concerns about the troubling implications of deepfakes, an issue she regards as equally serious.

“We must persist in educating the public about fake news and false claims. It’s imperative to foster ongoing critical thinking,” Hung stressed.

After ethical concerns, the next great challenge is the talent crunch, not only for AI specialisations, but for the wider tech industry.

“History shows us that while there will be job displacement, we also know that new jobs will be created. The question is, how do we equip our people and future generations with the necessary digital skills? The ascent is steeper compared to previous technological disruptions, so we need to be equipped for the future,” the Chief Information Officer remarked.

Partners for success

The digital transformations of ADB and Grab have been significantly supported by their partnership with Zoom, a key provider of communications solutions, which has enabled the organisations to overcome geographical barriers, a critical advantage during the pandemic.

“Grab’s multidisciplinary teams pool their expertise on projects to solve complex problems and deliver comprehensive solutions. This synergy, facilitated by Zoom’s suite of technologies, allows us to tackle challenges effectively and efficiently,” said Grab’s Paul-Eric Licari.

Meanwhile, ADB’s experimentation with remote work began in 2016, which, as Hung points out, was a precursor that readied them for the 2020 pandemic.

“We allowed our employees to choose how many days to work from the office, and how many days to work from home. We gave two days working from home so that employees can be more productive. At the same time, we also encouraged our staff to return to the office after the pandemic,” she said.

To help facilitate this work setup, ADB needed an assist from Zoom.

Paul-Eric Licari, Regional Head, Group Business Development, Grab. Image courtesy of Grab.

“Zoom has proven to be an effective tool for us, especially when we need to reach out to our clients and partners. Many of them enjoy the interactive seminars we host, where they can voice their needs. We also can use those virtual sessions and conferences to share our knowledge and insights to our developing members, clients, and partners,” Hung continued.

Realising AI’s capabilities to reimagine customer and employee experiences, Zoom itself has leveraged the technology to improve its suite of tools.

“AI has always been part of our story. It helps you when preparing for big meetings, composing emails, or catching up on a backlog of chat messages. Repetitive tasks like these can take up 62% of your workday, not to mention sap your productivity and hurt your ability to collaborate and spend time with your team. But now, with Zoom’s AI tool, such tasks are intended to improve,” said Ricky Kapur, Head of Asia Pacific, Zoom.

Since introducing generative AI in June 2023, Zoom saw thousands of organisations benefiting from free trials globally. This led the company to launch its AI assistant in September, the Zoom executive added.

“A new generic native AI digital assistant is now included at no additional cost for customers with paid services in their Zoom user accounts. AI isn’t just about algorithms and automation; it’s about creating a synergy between technology and that human connection,” Kapur said.

Future forward

Grab has evolved from a ride-hailing service to a super app, continuously expanding its services across the APAC region.

“Grab currently serves one in 20 people in Southeast Asia, who use our platform to eat, pay, or hail a ride, and we want to reach even more. We are continually working to help our drivers and delivery partners to be more productive so they can maximise their earnings with Grab. We’re also focused on making our services more affordable to more people in the region,” Licari stated.

The company has also introduced features powered by large language models, such as improved chat translations, to more effectively help travellers.

“AI is also a great way to automate and be more efficient, translating into time and cost savings. We’re soon adopting the Zoom AI companion, which facilitates greater work efficiency by automatically taking call notes, writing all call summaries, and so on,” Grab’s Licari said.

As for ADB, the goal is to be an insight-driven organisation through digitally enabled business and empowered employees.

“We want to continue leveraging analytics and AI to help us provide more knowledge and insight. This is so that we can recommend policy changes with our developing members and countries, in terms of the kind of projects that can help build the economy,” Hung concluded.