Asia’s opportunity for generative AI

Implemented responsibly, generative AI stands to create a ripple effect—one that transforms industries, fosters productivity and innovation, and improves billions of lives. So, as the technology reaches an inflection point, what are some of its main uses and early success stories in Asia? And how should the region’s organizations prepare to innovate?

Unlocking human creativity and potential

The key promise of generative AI is to streamline virtually any routine language- or process-driven task, supporting the capabilities of humans while freeing up more creative and productive uses of time. Leading businesses across Asia are beginning to explore these possibilities and state their ambitions. For example, Panasonic Connect introduced an AI virtual assistant for its 12,500 employees in Japan in February 2023. Meanwhile, in India, leading online travel company MakeMyTrip (owner of the Goibibo and redBus travel apps), has introduced voice-assisted booking in Indian languages, starting with Hindi, to complement the work of its human agents.

In an IDC survey, about 70% per cent of Asia-Pacific organizations say they are either exploring or have committed to invest in generative AI technologies. “We believe all business professionals will use AI on a daily basis,” says Hiroki Mukaino, senior manager of IT and digital strategy at Panasonic Connect. “Our choice was not whether to use AI, but when to start using it.”

According to Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index, which is based on a survey of 31,000 people in 31 countries, 78% of respondents in the Asia-Pacific region would delegate to AI, where possible, to reduce workloads. Three in four admitted they would be comfortable doing so, not just for administrative tasks but also for some analytical or creative aspects of their role.

The opportunity for developers in Asia is to harness an innovation tool that has the potential to quickly make a broad and powerful impact. From India to Indonesia, generative AI can be wielded by every person, whether they work for a large firm, startup, or as a freelancer. Eric Boyd, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI platform, describes the powerful ability of Azure’s OpenAI to generate and summarize content, produce code, and reason from gathered data. “Those four use cases are the dominant ones,” he says. “We are just scratching the surface of the types of applications that we can see.”

Technology forerunners in Asia

The organizations experimenting with generative AI either anticipate or are already experiencing tangible outcomes. For example, at Panasonic Connect, the implementation of ConnectAI, built on the Microsoft Azure OpenAI platform, is simplifying tasks that can eat up a worker’s day, such as drafting emails, gathering information, and writing code. Now, employees simply type out a question in natural language to obtain help. Currently, the platform is logging 5,000 questions daily. Panasonic Connect’s CEO, Yasuyuki Higuchi, even used the tool to draft a welcome speech for new employees. In future, “humans will concentrate on highly advanced work, rather than fairly simple work,” Higuchi says. “I think this is necessary.”

While impacts are so far anecdotal, benefits cited by employees include being able to read a summary of a long legal document in 10 minutes rather than the full version in an hour. In the IT and digital department, responses to employee IT surveys are being crunched in an hour rather than taking a whole week. This potential to improve labor force productivity is particularly vital in Japan, where almost one-third of the population is aged over 65. Set against a shortage of workers, generative AI is one way of “increasing employee productivity,” said Mukaino. “AI allows us to focus on creative tasks that only humans can do.”

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