IBM wants to take tech leadership in ASEAN

March 28, 2018 | 15:49
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IBM has set its sights on leading the artificial intelligence business in ASEAN, with high hopes for the Vietnamese market. Patricia Yim, newly-appointed general manager of IBM ASEAN, spoke to VIR’s Hong Quang about how to bring artificial intelligence to Vietnam.
ibm wants to take tech leadership in asean
Patricia Yim, newly-appointed general manager of IBM ASEAN

The digital transformation is creating breakthrough achie-vements thanks to cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain. Do you have any predictions about how these technologies will impact Vietnam?

You know, there is a fear that one day, machines will replace human beings. But, IBM believes that the purpose of artificial intelligence (AI) is to augment human intelligence and not take over people. AI systems such as Watson help because they can understand, reason, and learn from vast amounts of data - including data such as videos, images and blog posts which are not typically “read” by traditional computer systems. It is the job of the human being to use the insights from AI to make better decisions.

If we look at the AI platform Watson for Oncology, which we teamed up with Vietnamese company Five9 to launch last December, it acts on a cognitive computing system to help oncologists in Vietnam identify evidence-based cancer treatment options. It is like getting a second or third opinion based on available medical literature plus the experience of oncologists around the world.

Watson for Oncology has been implemented in the first phase with Phu Tho General Hospital and Bao Viet insurance company.

We look forward to more collaborations and partnerships in Vietnam, like the one we have with Five9, especially in the area of bringing cognitive computing to sectors such as banking and financial services, and media.

Regarding blockchain, it is a record book - or digital ledger - where everyone can see the history of transactions between individuals and institutions, but nobody can change things without others knowing. It is a revolutionary way to do business and IBM is at the forefront.

We believe that blockchain will transform businesses the way the Internet transformed the way information is acquired and shared. With a business blockchain such as IBM Blockchain and the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project, there is no need for cyptocurrency exchange.

We are now exploring the possibilities of using blockchain for payment systems in Vietnam and have been speaking with all the big banks and other local companies and institutions here. There is tremendous potential, and Vietnam companies are forward-thinking. We are still in the relatively early days of blockchain, but this technology is starting to revolutionise and disrupt industries.

Blockchain-based systems will radically improve entire industries, from banking and insurance to real estate, public records, supply chains, travel and transportation, and media and entertainment. But its impact could be even broader.

The three largest industry opportunities are in banking and financial services, government, and healthcare. In 2016, the global banking and financial services and insurance markets were estimated to rake in $67 million thanks to blockchain-based systems. The number is forecast to soar to $620 million by 2021. Meanwhile, the healthcare and life science sector is expected to exceed government and the public sector to become the industry with the second-largest potential for blockchain and AI by 2021.

IBM wants to lead with AI in ASEAN. How can the Vietnamese market contribute to reaching IBM’s goal?

If we look at Vietnam today, Watson for Oncology is a significant example for the application of AI. Watson for Oncology has been used in both hospitals and startups. It acts as a platform on the IBM cloud. What’s great is that you don’t have to make a huge investment; you can use the cloud and develop your system. Local software developers could grasp great opportunities to develop platforms like Watson for Oncology in Vietnam.

Vietnam has seen the application of some AI-based products in insurance, automated selling, and other areas. What is differenct about the AI developed by IBM for ASEAN and Vietnam?

Watson for Oncology is our key element in the industry; the platform can aid in diagnosing cancer and in patient care. If we look at AI, we understand that data can be used to make sense of issues. AI helps you to understand and is very specific on solving issues.

If we put everything into the system, it methodically learns. We set it to solve specific issues with specific requirements on the AI platform for the purpose of helping users make better decisions.

Vietnam’s technological development and the qualification of IT workers remain limited in comparison with other ASEAN countries. Do you have any concerns about the introduction of AI in Vietnam?

We want to have new applications with local aspects, which is why we talked about an Application Programming Interface (API), as there are a lot of developers accessing it.

We work with local companies to solve problems, so the fact that local company Five9 worked with us on Watson for Oncology gives us more knowledge about Vietnam. There is no longer a big gap between technology levels in developed countries versus developing ones, unlike in the past. The world of technology is more open in terms of opportunities for development, and everyone can access it.

Local software developers should focus on their station in Vietnam, with its large population. They have the ability to solve problems that are relevant to Vietnam, and they have the ability to develop. They should take inspiration from the case of India, which is now one of the leading countries in software outsourcing services.

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