“We don't believe that machines or these technologies will replace all the jobs. In fact, AI and ML will create higher-value employment for people. The challenge is for people to upskill to stay competitively relevant,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview.
There’s a lot of positivity around the future of data science, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), says VC Gopalratnam, senior vice-president – IT & CIO – International, Cisco. “We don’t believe that machines or these technologies will replace all the jobs. In fact, AI and ML will create higher-value employment for people. The challenge is for people to upskill to stay competitively relevant,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:
Are customers finding it difficult to transform into data-driven businesses?
Based on their industry vertical, customers may find it challenging to transform into data-driven businesses. Generally speaking, verticals such as financial institutions, retail and FMCG, have been quite evolved in the way that they have been using data. The evolution can be due to the competitiveness of the environment or due to margins dropping over the years. But data science and data analytics is a differentiator for these verticals.
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The adoption has been much slower for other types of industries. As the competitiveness of the vertical increases, so does the need to extract as much value out of data. This way, organisations can transition into a data-driven business. Also, there is a lot of data no one has paid attention to, which is led out of infrastructure. Now that people are making huge investments in infrastructure, they want to know if they are getting value out of it. So, they are converting themselves into a data-driven business.
Do you think cloud adoption has taken off as expected, or have there been some instances where expectations from vendors like Cisco were much more?
Compared to where we were 18 months ago, cloud adoption has taken off. One can always argue on both sides on whether it has been fast enough or not, the answer to which will be divided. From our perspective, we have observed that it has taken off, and we have increasingly seen this in our deals with customers. One of the areas where it has taken off well is the small and commercial business segment because this gives them a competitive advantage, within their markets as well as over large enterprises.
Now, as India is moving towards a digital economy, how do you address the security challenges that lie ahead?
Firstly, we need to accelerate our national cybersecurity policy. In its current form, we still cannot say—this is the policy we will ultimately go by. Also, there is an increase in understanding about data privacy and data protection. Now that GDPR has become official in Europe, many other parts of the world are trying to adopt data sovereignty, with similar rules on where the data is kept. As a country, we still have some way to go, particularly around this issue.
Do you think applications embedded in AI, ML and data science would trigger an adverse man-machine conflict for organisations which are undergoing digital transformation?
AI and ML are here to stay. It is a question of whether that is your core business, or whether you want to use it as an enabler. For example, at Cisco, our CEO talks about AI and ML as something that enables us to do some other things and is not the core of what Cisco does. While these technologies are enablers for companies like ours, some companies specialise in it as well. On the data science side, this is probably the fastest growing technology area right now due to the hyper generation of data that is coming in from all parts of a business, from all parts of the world. There is a common understanding that data-driven businesses perform better than businesses that make decisions based on intuition. So, there’s a lot of positivity around the future of data science, AI and ML. We do not believe that machines or these technologies will replace all the jobs. Rule-based jobs will probably go away, but AI and ML will create higher-value employment for people. The challenge is for people to upskill to stay competitively relevant, which is up to us as human beings to do.
Which are the top 2-3 technologies you think businesses need to watch out for? And how do you see them making a dent in specific industries?
In my view, any technology in the information security business will make a difference. Advances in information security and threat protection can never be stagnant. Blockchain in security is something which everyone is talking about; however, proper use cases have not been defined yet for this technology. This is one of the key reasons why adequate implementation for blockchain in this sector has not happened at scale.
From the technology point of view what are the key priorities for Cisco?
Our first objective is this; we are making a transition from being a hardware company to a software service as a subscription company. Therefore, the technology-led by the CIOs organisation has to enable the transformation.Our second objective, as our company moves into the newer world business models, is that all the back-end processes that provide support whether pricing changes, compensation changes or go to market changes, all of that also has to be enabled by the technology organisation. The third one is that since our employees like to the have the opportunity to work with the latest and coolest technologies; we are focusing on driving the customer and partner experience. We think these will be our top three objectives.