“AI gets 100 different answers from 100 execs”: Akamai expert

Akamai Middle East's senior engagement manager Elie Abouatme
Akamai Middle East’s senior engagement manager Elie Abouatme

What do you believe the Middle East must do in order to take artificial intelligence from hype to reality?

 The first thing the region needs to do is host more events and exhibitions to promote how you can translate buzzwords into reality. It’s important to sponsor and help educate the youth in schools and universities and professionals in organisations. If you’ve been working for 10-15 years, you’re supposed to know what AI is, but if you take 100 executives, you’d probably get 100 different answers. It need workshops in order to share ideas, and eventually, translate knowledge into value.


Is the concept of AI misinterpreted by the masses?

Most people haven’t heard about AI from a university book, but through the media, so that contributes to a lot of people’s’ misunderstanding. Most of the time, people talk very broadly about AI and how it will affect businesses and governments. You rarely see practical examples of how AI will translate into daily our lives. It’s become a bit vague.

In future, AI will become the de facto way we deal with machines. Computing, for example, has become cloud. Most applications we use day to day are sitting in the cloud.


Are advanced analytics tools often mistaken for AI?

Today, what you see in the market relates more to analytics, and this contributes to the limited understanding of AI at the moment. The concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about generating something new.


Is PwC’s prediction that AI will add $96 billion a year to the UAE’s economy by 2030 even vaguely realistic?

I think it’s possible, but I’d be interested to see how they got to that figure. Is it too good to be true? If you look at big industrial cities or countries like China, you’ll see a vast increase in AI implementations, and they could see double digit GDP growth if they introduce AI and make factories work 10, 20 or 50 times faster. It could exponentially increase productivity.


 How do you see AI benefiting business operations?

What comes to mind is how the future of HR will be, the process of going through resumes and understanding if candidates will be good for jobs. Another example is measuring KPI’s for employees and salespeople. If you need to manually input what’s been done, people sometimes forget certain things. AI, as part of a CRM or ERP system, can help employees to understand how KPI’s are working.

Another case is lead generation, in-bound marketing and social selling. I can think of a lot of ways that AI can benefit salespeople. Solutions that can make introductions to potential leads are a huge advantage. They can crunch data and make an introduction on your behalf. There are tools today that do more than chatbots. They can expedite the first response time because this helps a lot with conversion rates.

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