Chema Alonso, Chief Data Officer at Telefónica, explains how the data we generate in an increasigly digitalised world can fuel innovative AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions in the communications sector and beyond.
Technologies are profoundly changing the world we know. They are impacting not only our daily lives but also economic dynamics and policy making. The dilemma we are confronted with is how to grasp the opportunities brought by innovation while mitigating the risks.
The use of data is surely one of the main debates we need to agree upon as it will define future developments of the societies in which we want to live. We believe that any global agreement, whether political, economic or ethical, should be based on a human-centric approach. Linked to data and the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) across all sectors, AI is emerging as a new technology that can improve the well-being of people.
In this context, building trust is a priority to unleash the full potential of digitalisation, and therefore initiatives to protect people’s rights and fulfil their expectations are crucial for the definition of healthy Internet ecosystems. Further, as these technological innovations are extremely complex, when designing systems it is key that we take security and ethics into consideration from the beginning, otherwise it will be difficult to control in the future.
From Telefónica’s perspective, AI will allow us to understand our customers better so they can then relate to us more naturally and easily, generating a new relationship of trust with them. Aura, Telefónica's AI-powered digital assistant, is indeed already transforming the way customers interact with us and manage their digital life with the company. It will transform data into knowledge to offer customers personalised experiences in a natural and easy manner, with transparency and control over their personal information.
We are pioneers in this relationship model. Never before have the users of telecommunications services been able to talk with the networks in real time. We are expanding the relationship with our customers, seeking to increase their satisfaction, and opening new possibilities for them so that they can enrich their digital lives with us.
In a broader sense, in increasingly digitalised societies we generate more and more data in our interaction with infrastructures, systems or digital services. These data can be transformed to generate information about our lives in the digital world. The incorporation of Big Data has reduced the costs, and improved the viability of innovative solutions that transform these data. The availability of this vast amount of information has given a new impetus to AI solutions, providing them with a greater capacity for personalisation and predictive power.
This technology is applicable and easily transferable to practically all of the sectors that provide services to society, for example health, security, communications or mobility; every day, new solutions arise that allow us personalise the answers of these services for each individual and the circumstances that surround them.
In addition it is possible to “talk to technology”, using natural-language processing, or analyse and interpret images, for example digital assistants that adapt the relationship of companies and organisations with each client. There are also mechanisms that facilitate decision making in complex scenarios such as assistance in diagnosing diseases or in the operating room. The new capabilities that Big Data provides to AI allow more precision in the prediction of results: this point is critical as it facilitates the design of preventive systems that revolutionise multiple sectors, in particular in the detection of anomalies and protection from attacks in cybersecurity or the prevention of diseases in a health environment.
It is very difficult to determine how all these advances will impact the development of societies. That is why it is so relevant that all views are included in the analyses and recommendations. Private and public sectors, together with other stakeholders as experts, academia and civil society should gather to define the principles, standards and policies powering the use of AI for a better society while mitigating the risks. The privacy of people or the misuse of benefits that technology could provide are probably the most discussed topics at the moment.
In the absence of global agreements, we believe that a human-centric digitalisation should inspire organisations to use technology responsibly, giving individuals transparency about their data. We also highlight the urgent need for a profound modernisation of policy and regulatory frameworks so governments, institutions and society as a whole can provide responses to the new challenges posed by digitalisation.