Bangladesh & Sri Lanka . . . on a Gradual Path Towards Digital Transformation

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are two vital countries in the SAARC area (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). Bangladesh economy is mostly market-based and export-oriented and has been on a rapid growth path in recent times. Their GDP growth has almost reached 8% annually. Technology adoption has been a key component of the nation’s growth and development. The government has also been promoting the Digital Bangladesh scheme as part of its efforts to develop the growing ICT sector. As per Mr. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the ICT adviser to the prime minister, “It is likely that Bangladesh will become a major player in the ICT sector in future”. 

In the case of Sri Lanka, the country has plans to create a ‘knowledge-based social market economy’ and an ‘export-oriented economy’ to encourage economic growth.The government boosts the ICT industry. Key bodies that strongly influence the ICT sector include,- The Information & Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) as the government ICT agent, Computer Society of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM). Sri Lanka also has few government owned and privately managed IT Parks.

Digital Bangladesh -A Long-Ranging Vision for the Future IT Growth of the Country
Digital Bangladesh with Vision 2021 provides a huge incentive for enhanced utilization of digital technology in the country. Vision 2021 is an envisaged image of where Bangladesh should target to reach by 2021 for example 50 years after Bangladesh’s independence.

A vital constituent of Vision 2021 is Digital Bangladesh. Its key intention is to ensure socioeconomic change through heightened and focused ICT adoption. A typical example of the implementation of Digital Bangladesh is in improving literacy and digital skills and awareness. This is only possible through incorporating ICT as a part of the overall education syllabus. This will help to prepare the future workforce of the nation.

Some Key Digital Applications
Let us mention some innovative examples of digital applications in use in Bangladesh. One is in Land Records. Some new-age applications have come about like ‘e-Filing’ and Digital Land Records that are fast, efficient and preferred by the citizens. The earlier manual method was time-consuming, and citizens wasted a lot of time just chasing different stakeholders & government officials. The entire process is now online.

Another is Mobile Health.  mHealth, or mobile health, is a unique tactic that uses mobile technologies (mobile phones, tablets, etc.) to extend health services and info to patients. Experts concur that the Bangladesh mobile revolution has shaped a massive opportunity to implement mHealth to transform the way healthcare is delivered in the country.

bKash is a vital mobile financial service in Bangladesh regulated by a central bank that provides a myriad of cheap digital services. Some of these services are money transfers, payroll, mobile wallet and savings account. No wonder the utilization of bKash is rising rapidly in the country.

Another example of digital technology implementation is e-Governance. This has totally altered the process of public procurement in Bangladesh. Everything is done over a single web portal providing total transparency in the purchase process.

Sri Lanka – Rising Slowly but Surely
Today, Sri Lanka is focusing on inclusive growth through building a smart digital infrastructure across the island nation and re-positioning Colombo megapolis as a world class urban development. The digitalization process in Sri Lanka continues today with increasing societal & economic impacts. Within South Asia the telecom sector was first liberalized here.

The government has adopted digital literacy in the education sector. Recently, ‘cloud smart classrooms’ have been introduced. Many e-governance services are being expanded. Also, a new national data centre is being planned by ICTA.

Recently, Sri Lanka has been slowly rising in the Networked Readiness Index, showing that the digital transformation of the economy and society is on the rise. Overall, use of ICT in economic activities, such as, e-banking, mobile banking, e-bus ticketing & mobile POS are on the rise.

In Sri Lanka, current adoption is modest but substantial potential exists with efforts from all ecosystem players including government, telecom service providers, global ICT players and ICT associations to enhance end-user awareness and popularize cloud adoption. Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) launched a national cloud,” AKAZA” that provides affordable end-to-end cloud computing services for businesses.

AMI Recent Study on Bangladesh and Sri Lanka reflect these changes. 
A recent study by AMI on the Bangladesh ICT market indicates that the cloud market in the enterprise segment is anticipated to grow over 20% CAGR in the next five years. Trends like an increase in internet penetration, rapid mobile devices/smartphone adoption and the popularity of social media result in data explosion & growing storage needs. These necessitate the growth in usage of datacentres both captive and hosted. The latter shows a higher future growth likelihood due to its multiple benefits. Some of these being savings in cost, scalability and space.

~Subrata Sarkar, Senior Research Analyst

On-demand ERP – Future Growth Engine for India Service Sector Firms

Background
First, let’s pen a line on what constitutes the service sector. The service sector, also called the tertiary sector, is one of the three principal and traditional economic sectors. The other two sectors are Agriculture (covering areas like farming, mining and fishing) and the secondary sector covering manufacturing. The importance of the service sector can be gauged from the fact that it constitutes more than half of the overall GDP in India. Moreover; its contribution to the GDP is continually on the rise; signifying that India is gradually showing a shift from manufacturing-based economy towards a services-based one. The service sector also provides employment to more than a quarter of the labour force.

Need for a Business Integration Solution
The service sector has become increasingly IT-savvy and technology-focused in its quest to conform to client expectations and achieving global standards in business processes and performance. AMI research shows that service sector SMBs account for over a quarter of the entire SMB business universe and constitutes almost a fifth of the overall sectoral IT spend.

This research further shows that SMBs in India face multiple business challenges. Several of these challenges are the need for business integration, manpower management and payroll processing, automation of manual tasks, ensuring compliance, ensuring higher profitability and cost control. Thus, the need of a robust and comprehensive business application software that can address these business problems has grown by leaps and bounds among India service sector SMBs. With the modernization of the sector and exposure to global business partners, factors like transparency, efficiency and accountability have grown in importance. Many businesses within this sector are on the lookout for business application software that helps in managing resources and providing a bird’s eye view to top management regarding the overall business situation.

The question arises – specifically what are the sub-verticals within the service sector that show a higher potential of growth in terms of ERP solutions?  AMI’s study shows that sub-verticals like back-office service providers (audit & tax / finance & accounting, legal) as well as other service providers (healthcare, hospitality & professional business services) show significant potential of adopting business application software.

Currently, ERP penetration is marginal within this sector with most adoption being an on-premise platform. However, there is significant growth potential for on-demand or cloud-based ERP within this sector in the days to come.

Drivers and Barriers
As part of its survey, AMI has analysed the key growth drivers and hindrances for Cloud-ERP adoption in the service sector. The major growth-inducers, as mentioned by most end-users are ease of use, anytime/anywhere accessibility, automatic upgrades, pay per use improved efficiency and scalability.

There are also several hindrances. These include data security concerns, poor connectivity, performance unpredictability and the need for internal training.

As mentioned by a Travel Agency, “Timely ticket booking online is a key success factor for my business. However, in this city the Internet speed and connectivity fluctuates a lot. So, you can understand the trouble I would face if I am unable to process a request due to internet issues. Hence, cloud-based ERP is not for me!” Another person in the hospitality sector indicated that he was convinced that there would be true TCO benefits “I am not sure that although I pay none or little initially that I may not end up paying a lot more in the long run!

The way Forward. . .
There is indeed huge ERP adoption potential within the India service sector SMBs but for that to become a reality multiple measures need to be undertaken by ERP vendors. One of the most important needs is to select proper implementation partners with adequate technical and service capability. Undoubtedly, this is a vital requirement since in our discussions with service sector SMBs they have mentioned that one of the key bottlenecks to successful ERP adoption is the problem faced during implementation and training. A primary necessity is that partners should have a concept of the vertical-specific Line-of-Business Software usage patterns so that they can gauge the client requirements better and design solutions accordingly. Further, there should be a clear demarcation between sales partners and implementation partners.

Another interesting finding is that most organizations prefer an easy plug-and-play-solution with little customization that should fit most organizations. Vendors will do well to remember this at the stage of product designing. Many end-users are still unaware of the value proposition and advantages of cloud-ERP. Vendors should surely initiate more awareness-building campaigns among prospective users along with channel partners to educate users about cloud-ERP value propositions and remove all misconceptions.

Thus, it is easy to conclude that cloud-ERP adoption and spending is set to grow among the India service sector businesses in the future.

~ Dev Chakravarty, Sr. Manager, Research

How Long till We Have Fully Self-Driving Cars?

In our quest to automate one task after the other, we have now landed on the possibility of self-driving cars. Though still in its testing phase, this technology shows great potential. Companies such as Waymo are already testing self-driving cars in Arizona. Tesla and a few others have rolled out a limited range of autopilot cars. These vehicles do need driver intervention at times though. When something goes wrong with the present vehicles in use, it’s tough to say who’s to blame- the driver or the car.

As these systems keep learning and improving, it won’t be long before we see a fully driverless car needing no human intervention whatsoever. But for systems to achieve this kind of deep learning, enormous training with data incorporating every possible scenario is needed. This makes it one of the most challenging automation projects ever. Among the tasks that need to be automated, there’s not only processing and decision making but also predicting n-number of unforeseeable factors that affect the driving environment. Moreover, the biggest caveat with any moving vehicle is public safety. In the case of a manually operated car, the driver is responsible for continuous observation and analysis of the road/traffic and is required to act accordingly. Another hard-to-automate task is inter-driver communication, such as when drivers nod to each other or signal each other to “go first”. Self-driving cars will have to accomplish all these tasks precisely and carefully.

As of now, this technology has its advantages and disadvantages. The system uses sensors and mapping software which is updated every instant, to map various driving environments continuously. Each accident is a first-time occurrence that involves an unanticipated situation, something that the system will learn from. The key here is to be able to catalogue various objects such as a bump in the road, an overtaking vehicle, or a broken windshield, and select suitable responses in an actual driving scenario. But the developers can’t be expected to predict each one of these accidents in advance. What makes self-driving cars tricky is their response to unpredictable or unfamiliar circumstances such as pedestrians breaking a signal and crossing the road without looking. But the pro here is that once an event has occurred, the system learns from it, comprehends it and the fix can be implemented in all future cars. Companies are looking to feed as much data to these systems as possible, assuming that will lead to the strongest self-driving system.

In their current stage, self-driving cars have already outdone human responses. But it is going to be a long time before we see completely automated self-driving cars everywhere. These cars will initially be run and tested in controlled environments where they are exposed to less unstructured situations. Later, we might see separate lanes for these cars, to avoid unforeseen circumstances in dense areas and to give the system ample opportunity to learn and understand the real-world driving conditions. All said, in the long run, these cars have the potential to reduce accidents and save commute times.

~ Kunika Sodhi, Business Intelligence Analyst

Digital Transformation Hits the Financial Sector

It has become the norm that of the seven vertical industries retail and travel have always been the front-runners in responding to innovation and the adoption of new technologies when compared to the finance and banking sector. But recently, the financial services vertical has begun to re-establish itself striving to become more consumer-centric. This has become necessary due to changing consumer expectations, high-voltage competition and the overall adoption of the latest technologies by other industries resulting in it becoming necessary for financial services to embrace digital transformation. In addition, in the digitized world, the emergence of “FinTechs” (financial startups based on new technologies) are giving immense opportunities to traditional and age-old financial players to come up to speed to compete or collaborate with these new types of firms and co-exist.

Responding to customers’ expectations – bringing about innovation & technology to financial sector
Financial players are integrating the latest technologies into their day-to-day operations and all areas of banking. Some of these are turning to next-gen technologies allowing for remote expert consultation via video and chatbots, analytics-enabled trading platforms and customized services as well as enhancing transactions on the go from any mobile device. Interestingly, financial firms and banks became advanced players to adopt and adapt machine learning (ML), artifi­cial intelligence (AI), data analytics, blockchain and cloud computing. This has allowed them to meet the consumers’ expectation, provide better customer experiences, and to attain operational efficiency and business compliance.

Recent changes inspired large financial institutions to collaborate with fintech firms to acquire the strength of advanced technologies to lure more customers such as small businesses that need hassle-free time-saving technologies to help increase growth. This also allows them to reach millennials who prefer to do all financial functionalities through their mobiles using mobile-friendly apps. Previously, financial firms were using technology to innovate their improvised internal operations and maintenance but with the saturation of mobile devices and the appearance of fintech firms, all focus has turned to providing more efficient & effective customer experiences. This is being done via mobile-friendly innovations contactless payments, payment on-the-go, e-deposits, digital lending, capital markets, P2P payments and many more.

Let’s explore some of the important tech-innovations making their way to the financial domain that are bringing about much-needed change.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI in all verticals, including financial services, aims to provide a more personalized and relevant customer experience. Digitization of banking procedures has enabled a greater number of touch-bases than the traditional banking system. Customers feel more engaged and involved while getting messages from all sorts of channels (traditional as well social media channels). One of the world’s leading banking & financial services launched an AI-driven Facebook chatbot to answer   customers’ queries. Such as what’s their current account balance or to locate the nearest ATM using Facebook Messenger.

AI-enabled banking procedures are making the customers’ experience more convenient and well-connected. An AI-enabled facial recognition system can identify an individual the moment they enter any bank branch and access relevant related information such as spending patterns and recent financial transactions. AI technologies are also helping financial firms in cost-management and maintaining efficiency in their operations. Modern technologies – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) are great enablers to improve efficiency and productivity. An AI-enabled system analyzes all types of business data and establishes greater internal control of the operating system.

Machine learning (ML)
Machine Learning has been used in many day-to-day activities from email sorting through Natural Language Processing (NLP), automatic update of customers’ records in Customer Relations Management (CRM) solutions, efficiently assisting customers’ through customer self-service portals and many more. In recent time, ML became an important component in many aspects of the financial ecosystem like approving loans, asset management and assessing risks to name a few.

ML in a different format is assisting in essential financial procedures such as portfolio management, algorithmic trading/ high-frequency trading (HFT), fraud detection and loan/insurance underwriting. ML is used to a larger extent to strengthen customer service through chat bots and conversational interfaces, ensuring security (Security 2.0), sentiment/news analysis  by analyzing social media, news trends.

 Blockchain
The use of blockchain (not the open blockchains such as bitcoin rather the private, permissioned blockchains) will be the future of technology in the financial sector. With trusted third parties handling back office transactions, post-trade settlements, trade finance, insurance, and compliance and regulations. Blockchain can be utilized to create client identification systems based on distributed ledger technology and can be used by other branches and different banks in the financial ecosystem.

Blockchain technology would be crucial in insurance deposits and loan decisions by identifying fraud and unreliable sources in the overall financial system. Another significant role of blockchain would be to improve traditional insurance by automated payments.

Cloud
Cloud-enabled applications help the financial sector to streamline many processes such as new digital workflows, to establishing effective collaboration among else-while siloed departments, business units and individuals who are working with the financial organizations. Many in-house systems and processes can be handled more effectively with cloud-based SaaS applications, such as HR, CRM, ERP and financial accounting. The cloud system can secure the overall finance ecosystem in terms of cyber security protection without hiring a specialist team or deploying any technology.

Digital path-way to financial sectors
In recent times, all industries are trying to transform digitally. So is the financial sector where ensuring security, data maintenance & management is almost as important as sustain customers’ trust in the institution. All modern technologies (A-B-C – Artificial intelligence/machine learning, blockchain and cloud) are thus leading the way to attain this revolution in financial sector. In coming years, digital transformation will be a significant component of the investment strategy of any financial firm thereby embracing the digital disruption happening in all verticals.

~ Arpana Bharti, Research Analyst

“Curation” – Moving Mass Production to Bespoke-Like Offerings

Once upon a time, the term “curate” was mainly associated with museums.  We pictured curators carefully selecting art or artifacts aligned with a specific theme or idea they were trying to convey in their exhibits – but that idea is changing.

Marketers have adopted the idea of curation to mean tailoring your company’s products, services, or content to appeal to a specific type of customer.

Over the last 10 years, the concept of “curated content” has gained ground everywhere and has become particularly important for vendors in different vertical industries.  For example, fashion houses “curate” their collections to appeal to their type of clientele; retail buyers “curate” their product assortments to appeal to their specific customer base; and IT vendors are getting the message…their customers are looking for IT solutions that work specifically for them, solving their problems and making them more productive.  Business customers are no longer interested in purchasing hardware or software products that are “hard to use” or take a lot of time training employees to use.

I bring this up, because I recently attended an HP media and analyst virtual briefing on their upgraded line of Z Workstations.   HP said they made innovations based on customer insights, addressing key pain points experienced, specifically among “creative” industries, such as architects, designers, engineers and photographers.  According to HP, their creative customers reported looking for improvements in productivity, added flexibility, and upgraded security, all within budgetary constraints. HP’s improvements to the Z line were done to address specific needs for a very specific set of customers, things like upgraded processors, smaller form factors and added security.

I think HP is on the right track. AMI has been talking to small, mid-size and large enterprises (SMLBs) about which PC features are most important to them.   Our worldwide data shows SMLBs in “creative” verticals rank certain features much higher than “non-creative” verticals – things like ultra-thin design, type of processor (e.g., Intel, AMD), durability, lightweight, and multiple USB ports, among others.

With the ever-increasing “connectedness” of social media and the digital transformation within vendors themselves, new ideas like “curating” merchandise and new technologies such as AI will change the marketing narrative from guiding customers to products to customers guiding product offerings.

~ Eileen Zimbler, Vice President

Quantum Computing – Immense Possibilities for the Future

Quantum Computing is undoubtedly a revolutionary phenomenon; and that’s not an exaggeration! It is speculated that it will provide huge gains in computing capacity and processing power that was previously almost unimaginable! Quantum computers enjoy the capacity to conduct calculations even beyond the grasp of any standard supercomputer.

 A Background: What is Quantum Computing All About?
Quantum computing is the study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behaviour of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level. Development of a quantum computer would mark a huge leap forward in computing capability. Gains in performance may be even a billion-times or more! The quantum computer, following the laws of quantum physics, would gain enormous processing power through the ability to be in multiple states, and to perform tasks using all possible permutations simultaneously.

Standard digital computers store information as bytes. These are represented as 0s or 1s.  However, quantum computers use Qubits (a short contraction of Quantum Bits). The difference from traditional computing is that of superposition whereby a Qubit does not occupy a single value of O or 1; rather it takes up both values: “0” and “1”. This property of “superposition” can enable Quantum Computers to display multiple combinations of states simultaneously; thus, being able to process information at many times the speed of traditional computing.

Several players are in the fray – long established, Start-ups, etc…
Many players are taking part in the research of developing Quantum Computers. Of course, established IT giants like IBM, Google, Microsoft and D-Wave Systems have been playing pioneering roles in the research of Quantum Computing. There are also other players in key roles in Quantum Computing research such as start-ups and new players like Rigetti Computing, IonQ, Quantum Circuits, Qubitekk, QxBranch, Anyon Systems, ID Quantique, Post Quantum, Qbit Logic, QC Ware and Cambridge Quantum Computing.

Of course, their areas of operations are different:

  • Rigetti Computing and Qubitekk are embarking on the capital-intensive challenge of building the hardware necessary to create a commercially viable quantum computer.
  • ID Quantique and Post Quantum offer security products and services based on quantum encryption.
  • QC Ware and Cambridge Quantum Computing focus on software aimed at enterprises running quantum computers.
  • Quantum Bio-systems are developing niche quantum computing-based applications, such as advanced genomic sequencing.

Various Quantum Computing applications exist… many of which we cannot even comprehend.
The incredibly fast problem-solving capacity of quantum computers can be utilized in a myriad of ways. Many of which will gradually become reality. Some of the possible applications of Quantum computing are Artificial Intelligence, Molecular Modelling, Cryptography for improving security, Financial Modelling, Weather Forecasting and Particle Physics. The government is also likely to be a major sector to promote commercial use of quantum technology in different sectors, such as defence and aerospace.

Quantum Computing in the Asia Pacific
Significant advancement in Quantum Computing research is being spearheaded in Europe and America. The Asia Pacific is not very far behind. IBM has chosen Keio University, Japan, as its first Asian quantum computing hub since this university has multiple specialists in this arena. This research hub can access IBM’s advanced quantum computer system via the internet. This is in fact, the first of its kind in Asia. The prime goal of the Keio research center will be to detect those applications that utilize quantum computing to the best extent.

Future Trends…how far ahead is Quantum Computing? 
No doubt there are still several problems to overcome like interference, error correction, output observance but many are optimistic about the time it might take to have a workable Quantum Computer model ahead. “We are at the point now where we have the science developed so far that we see a path to scaling it and building a quantum computer that solves problems in the next five to ten years,” predicted Microsoft’s Matthias Troyer, Researcher. Similar thoughts are echoed by Harriet Green, Head of IBM APAC who predicted that quantum computing is anticipated to go mainstream in the next five years.

John Martinis, Researcher for Google was less willing to commit to a timeline stating “It’s going to take us a while to figure out how to do everything, both in hardware and software. I have been working on this since the ’80s. We are making rapid progress [now], but it may take some time to figure it out”

A multi-functional team with a combination of physicists and engineers need to work together in tandem for the success of a Quantum Computing project. As per Troyer: “Microsoft needs “people who are mathematicians, and physicists, and chemists, and engineers, but mostly people who have an open mind and who can solve problems.”

~ Dev Chakravarty, Sr. Manager, Research

AI in Modern Education

When I recall my university days or even before that, few events or observations really bothered me regarding the existing education system in India. If I had to prioritize these criticisms, the list would look something like this:

  1. Student Evaluation System – Why were all students evaluated on 1 or 2 parameters – marks and obedience. In some situations maybe, physical training but this was a rarity.
  2. Teaching Methods – Why were all students expected to have similar IQs and learning capabilities? Why were all lagging students expected to study more, but no special measures were taken by teachers to alter their teaching style for laggards?
  3. Parents-Teachers Collaboration – Any normal student spends 6 hours in schools and the remaining time at home, but why do parents and teachers interact once a year and have little to no interaction through 4 sessions of schooling.
  4. Lack of Teaching Standards – Good teachers possess unique skills, however, why should a student suffer because he gets tagged to an inferior one.
  5. Too Many Repetitive Tasks – Why is there a need for roll call before every class? This takes about 5-6 minutes for a class of 50. Done 5 times each day, 30 minutes of the teaching day is wasted. If you consider the lag time after roll call to start teaching the days lesson, this lost time is more like 45 minutes a day. And this is just from a student prospective. What about other administrative task like checking answer sheets and preparing exam seat plans just to mention two.

Modernization of Education has been a gradual journey, from the introduction of case-study-based teaching, to usage of PPTs projected by digital projectors or educational CDs. Fortunately, this space has finally found its truest accelerator in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence has started to change all major aspects of education, while endlessly opening innovative avenues that have led to improved efficiency of teachers, efficacious students, and lower costs for the public-school system. This revolution may still be in its initial phase, but it is already making a huge impact on the education ecosystem.

First and foremost, AI will make teachers’ lives a lot easier. According to UNESCO, the world will need an enormous 68.8 million teachers by the year 2030, including 24.4 million primary school teachers and 44.4 million secondary school teachers, and that’s just to keep class sizes below 40 students in the secondary education level. Finding, coaching, and supporting that many teachers is going to be particularly difficult, given that we only have 12 short years to achieve this. Moreover, many regions of the world don’t have the infrastructure to foster this kind of growth.[1]Artificial Intelligence could potentially alleviate some of the stress that teachers will face in the future. It will create more free time for educators, provide insights on students who might be struggling, and allow for a more adaptive and flexible learning environment.

Multiple AI-powered programs such as automated grading programs could free valuable time for teachers and allow them more opportunities to interact with students. Many experiments are being conducted in India, China, and South America to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs in a “developing” economic environment.

AI systems can be used by teachers to not only craft courses customized to the student needs, but it can also be used to provide feedback to both the student and the educator about the success of the course, considering multiple variables to evaluate a student, like personality or a psychometric test. Besides, blended learning initiatives could allow classrooms to grow bigger while still maintaining the same level of interaction between students and teachers.

For students to perform better, AI-based systems have fundamentally transformed how students can gather knowledge with newer, more integrated technologies such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s adaptive learning algorithm and Microsoft’s Cortana program. Future students may have massively transformed experiences doing research and looking for supporting evidence for theories they are considering than the students of today.

Additionally, machine interaction allows for an unbiased learning system at the student’s disposal. They find it more comfortable and less intimating to learn through a trial and error method offered in an artificial cognitive environment, removing the fear of falling short of the teacher’s expectations. Students feel liberated enough to experiment and offer creative solutions for improvement.

AI-powered education has meant Parents will shoulder larger accountability for their children’s education. Parents may have to take on additional roles as teachers, guardians, and custodians as their kids navigate through newer platforms and technologies. This move would impact millions of public and private K-12 teachers, not to mention the officers and support staff who are constantly coordinating with the parents.

Overall, AI will be good for education. The goal of Artificial Intelligence is also said to be a virtual architect for the learning milieus. It will create virtual human-like characters who can think, act, react, and interact in a natural way with the core objective of CUSTOMIZED CONTENT AND PERSONALIZED CARE!

~Kishalay Choudhury, Director

 

 

[1] UNESCO Institute of Statistics, http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs39-the-world-needs-almost-69-million-new-teachers-to-reach-the-2030-education-goals-2016-en.pdf

GDPR: “Right to be Forgotten” vs. Backups Systems

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect recently and it will have a huge impact on all businesses. Particularly data intensive companies when considering Article 17 the ‘Right to be Forgotten’. As it now stands, companies can add or remove data from their current active directory, but what about their backups?

Just a little background: GDPR was approved by the European Parliament in April 2016 and came into force in May 2018. Unfortunately, a majority of organizations waited until crunch-time to finalize their policies. We have seen many companies including the likes of Google and Facebook getting fined billions of Euros due to a lack of security and inappropriate data collection. As per the new rule, non-compliance can result in a fine of 20 million Euros or 4% of annual global (GLOBAL!) revenue, whichever is highest.

Right to be Forgotten is a step in the right direction from a consumer standpoint. This dictates that a company must delete customer data if a consumer requests them to do so. Only governments, hospitals and journalists are exempt from this rule. In theory, this provides “complete control” to consumers on how their personal and public information is being used. However, this policy is a nightmare for organizations where all backups and recovery take place. For example, tech companies like Facebook do not collect the data on small spreadsheets and delete a row at the consumers’ request. We’re talking billions of data points with multiple attributes. This is all multiplied by the numerous backups a company stores. The practice of multiple backups, especially in the case of a tech companies, is extremely commonplace.

GDPR Vs Backup Challenges:

Unstructured Backups:

Backups are usually not structured like an MS Office file or relational databases (RDBMS). In high level terms, it is important to understand that backup products are handed an object with minimal metadata about that object. Backup products do not control the content, or the format of the object and have no knowledge of the data inside it. So, finding a data point and deleting all associated attributes in the backup is not feasible.

Integrity:

When restoring the backup, checksum is a basic way to check data integrity. Deleting data from backup opens risks of corrupting the backup, breaking applications that were expecting data to be present, flouting referential integrity.

Keeping track of deleted data:

When a company is asked to delete a record, it needs to make sure that data stays deleted. The company needs to find a way to delete data for John Doe living at 001 Hollywood Lane, without storing the data of John Doe at 001 Hollywood Lane because doing so would be violating the deletion request.

Compliance:

The right to be forgotten applies in certain situations and an exemption may apply at times but that is still unclear. In addition to the technical issues, companies might face conflicting compliance issues such as keeping historical data for legal cases and audit purposes.

Is there an obvious solution? No! as historical backups can fall out of GDPR compliance. According to AMI’s Global Model, market size for the Backup and Recovery segment is expected to grow at nearly 9% from $9.4 Billion USD in 2017 to $14.5 Billion USD by 2022. How GDPR will affect this market segment remains to be seen but backup vendors should be a part of this process moving forward, because each industry is generating and gathering more data than ever. As technology progresses, maybe finding and deleting a record from a backup will be easier and can become a competitive advantage for these backup companies.

~Ankit Mehta, Associate

Evolving Retail is Digitally Transforming to Cater to the Individual Shopper

There is no mistaking the fact that technology is changing everything from the work environment to the way we vacuum our floors. The shopping experience is also being affected by this ever-increasing phenomenon. While visiting a physical store for everyday needs is still commonplace, more and more we are familiar and comfortable with online shopping via computers and mobile devices. Not only is it a matter of increased purchasing channels and convenience, but we are also more likely to get exactly what we want when we want it. The driving forces behind these changes are advanced technologies and connectivity both playing pivotal roles in changing the shopping environment and experience. Such advanced technologies are not only the luxuries for giant retail chains, but affordable solutions are also increasingly available for small and medium retailers (SMRs).

Omni-Channel Commerce

By definition, “Omni-” stands for in all ways or places without limits. Not just physical stores and e-commerce, but all possible ways of shopping including via mobile devices and marketplaces. As a shopper, I often have trouble finding what I want in physical stores. Almost always my size and favorite color are out of stock or sold out, and my must-haves often become close outs and no longer available. I was either extremely lucky or it was a miracle to find exactly what I wanted. However, now because I am becoming more of an online shopper, I am now increasingly lucky, and I am experiencing such miracles daily. What I was told was “no longer available” in the neighborhood stores can be easily found on online stores or marketplaces and directly shipped to my home without significant delay or high extra shipping cost.

What makes such “miracles” happen is digitally connected supplier networks and centralized inventory management systems in the cloud. In a legacy retail system, warehouses and inventories are separately allocated for physical and online stores. Therefore, physical stores don’t know what their online store has in stock, and vise-versa. Resulting in customers’ bad luck – more likely experiencing an “out-of-stock” situation when they visit one store. Centralized real-time inventory management enables store staff to be able to check inventory and location, so that they can directly ship the merchandise from the closest possible location. This could be from another store in a different location or a central warehouse. It’s also true that an online shopper will receive the desired product from nearest possible physical store carrying the item.

Such systems may sound relevant only for large retail chains that have multiple stores and online outlets. In reality, the rising popularity of participating marketplaces by SMRs has boosted multi-channel commerce across all sizes of firms. Omni-channel inventory management surely benefits even small retailers. A variety of software products designed for SMRs are available for affordable SaaS pricing include Lightspeed, Vend, Veeqo and Clearly Inventory to name a few.

Marketing Strategy – Shift to Individual

The other tangible digital transformation area is marketing. Thousands of startups are now offering marketing tools and apps in various approaches to improve the customer experience. The universe is clearly in an experimental phase – technology vendors and product brands are testing what approaches are effective where and for whom. The ultimate goal for retailers is to sell the right merchandise to the right customer at the right time.

This means strategy is shifting from a product-based marketing campaign to an individual customer’s need/want base. There are roughly 3 types of marketing techniques: macro-marketing, micro-marketing and individual marketing. Macro-marketing is the technique mainly used for branding – improving brand/product awareness and public image. Actual sales boosting is through micro- and individual-marketing. Traditionally, product brands and retailers create a campaign to sell a specific product. Therefore, they analyze and profile customers who are most likely to buy the product and select the most effective methods to reach them. Targets were a group of people who share similar characteristics. But now the strategy is shifting to how to satisfy a customer on an individual basis.

I myself have experienced “individual marketing.” I recently remodeled my 30-year-old kitchen. Looking at the updated kitchen, I felt like getting new dining chairs that fit a modern open kitchen design. I started to explore dining chairs by browsing some online stores to check availability. Soon, I started receiving emails everyday notifying me of “dining chair sales.” Did I looked for dining chairs at the right time when several home furnishing stores were offering discount prices? Clearly that was not the case. Those stores tracked my website browsing history and found out that I was looking for dining chairs. Catching my demand, they created “personal sales” for me.

What made a “personal sales” approach possible are behavioral analytic tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. The tools catch and analyze individual behavior on ecommerce sites – from keyword searches, visiting the website and clicking product pages until the visitor leaves the website. Realtime analytic tools can empower chatbots to provide the site visitor with information he/she is looking for using friendly natural language.

From the shoppers’ point of view, it sounds good as it cuts down research time but it is not perfect yet. “The personal dining chair sales” was a good try but I didn’t purchase anything. Their apps were able to understand my personal demand (wanting dining chairs,) but didn’t know what dining chairs – my selection criteria and preferred taste. The discount price was a powerful push but didn’t convince me to take a limited time discount offering at the expense of my idea for new dining room coordination. Personal preference and taste are probably the most difficult and tricky areas in purchase behavior analysis – ideas inspired by a massive influx of information from social media, even mood and weather impact final decisions.

Also, how hard to push is a factor that needs to be considered. Too often multiple pushes impact negatively, but too little doesn’t work either. Yet, overtime along with accumulating data, AI and ML will learn even whimsical personal tastes and act like a personal shopping assistance to strengthen the customer engagement. Retailers, regardless of size, will soon have no choice but to adopt such solutions to keep competitive.

The digital marketing space is now extremely crowded. Theoretically, the market will eventually select winners. At this point, it’s extremely difficult to predict just who those winners will be. What is quite clear is the retail industry is shifting to an individual marketing approach to improve the overall customer engagement.

~ Yuki Uehara, Senior Director

Who Will Win the Golden Boot in the Cloud Wars?

The ongoing 2018 FIFA games being held in Russia have already given the world the first set of surprises – Germany losing to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil drawing their respective games to relative underdogs, and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi—five times voted the world’s best player— misses a penalty!! Unpredictability in the leader quadrant and the ability of the smaller players to rise to the occasion have made an early impact on the World Cup and similar trends have been seen in the ever-present Cloud War.

AWS’s capability to offer innovative, scalable and dynamic cloud infrastructure has made it the most successful provider in this space. My first impression from the AWS Analyst Summit in Mumbai was that of a giant with one of the most extensive partner networks. AWS is financially strong, has an evolving service portfolio and is working closely with Fortune 500 companies to co-innovate. While AWS is garnering a growing base of happy clients, they have been faced with perceptual challenges in client services, response time to issues and price has turned many of their loyal to its nearest competition, Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft is gaining ground quickly under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella and a “cloud first” initiative. They are building their own huge global cloud network and their reputation for delivering business-aligned productivity solutions (WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a CAGR of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022), is increasing their cloud user base. At a recent event, Microsoft took pride in taking us through their “Garage” in Hyderabad, which is their hub for open innovation. While competing with AWS, Azure continues to enjoy a reputation for superior service quality, a robust productivity suite, a stronger-by-the-day partner network, and a solid cash flow. However, they seem to be battling a perception war on innovation. A stronger PR initiative and thought leadership is the key to overcoming these obstacles.

Internet giant Google has been busy expanding its public cloud services under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google’s initial reluctance to commit adequate resources to the cloud compounded its struggle to rival competitors. A transformation was needed and boy what a transformation it has been. What I noticed at the 2018 GCP Summit in Mumbai, was an increased investment by GCP in data-centers, robust global networks and an increased focus on security. However, GCP must strive harder to sharpen its B2B strategies and build a robust partner network/strategy, targeting MSPs, CPs, SIs and ISVs, to compete with Azure and AWS in India and the ASEAN region.

For quite some time, IBM roundtables and strategy summits have been focused on Watson, intelligent cloud, servers, and systems. However, IBM’s substantial existence in all aspects of the IT services space limits its appeal to other players seeking cloud partnerships. Moreover, when separating cloud on its own merit, their vision is somewhat misty, which continues to cast a doubt whether the firm is really a true contender in the cloud war.

While AWS can be compared to the “German Football team” – a well-oiled, ruthless, fighting machine which will steamroll anything it’s path; GCP is the quite come from behind team. GCP is more relaxed, confident, intelligent and a competent giant which is preparing itself to face the storm. What stood out to me at these summits, was Microsoft and its legacy of strong delivery capabilities, which is more like the erstwhile “Brazil Football team” possessing demeanor plus aggression and super skills up-its sleeves.

According to AMI-Partner, globally, about 22 million firms are planning to allot more of their IT budgets for hosted/cloud solutions as opposed to on-premise IT products and services. The war is not yet over, but for the time being, AWS and Microsoft are the two front runners in a heat to the top spot. And when you are considering the cloud wars in the APAC region, watch out for my review on Alibaba Cloud!! This company will surely be a force to be reckoned with.

~Kishalay Choudhury, Director