In recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative force with the potential to revolutionize various industries across the globe. While its applications are numerous, one of the most promising and impactful areas is its ability to empower consumers in emerging markets. That’s us.
In countries like India, Bangladesh, and across the African continent, AI is opening doors to greater access, affordability, and convenience in essential services, thereby enhancing the quality of life for millions. It’s time we learn how AI is helping us.
Michael Puscar, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and a published data scientist, who has founded companies including Yuxi Pacific, GITP Ventures, Oiga Technologies and NPCx, says that the barriers to implement AI technology are now gone.
“You no longer need to be a data scientist, an engineer, or even a programmer. It is 1997 again; but instead of the Internet, the technology that is changing industry is AI. There is a gold rush to implement this technology across every industry, from virtual travel agents to wine recommendation engines, from customer service to accounting,” he says.
India pioneered the service economy in the 1990s with outsourcing, but AI now puts that sector at risk. However, despite India’s AI market being half the size of China’s, GlobalData research suggests India’s market growth outpaces that of China. In fact, India AI market size was estimated at USD 672.11 million in 2022, and AI expenditure in India is expected to reach $11.78 billion by 2025 and add $1 trillion to India’s economy by 2035, as per a World Economic Forum report. The country is poised to pivot from outsourcing to artificial intelligence.
“Indian companies have intimate knowledge of the manual and repetitive tasks that usually accompany an outsourced project, and that means those same companies have a unique advantage in the race to automate those processes using AI,” Puscar adds.
But the clock is indeed ticking, he says.
“Just like the Internet boom of the 1990s that created Google (1998), Amazon (1994), eBay (1995), and PayPal (1998), thousands of entrepreneurs will create successful companies based on AI technology, and a few hundred will build multi-billion dollar companies. And just like the boom of the 90’s, this opportunity won’t last forever. The time is now,” he says.
Access to Financial Services
One of the significant challenges in emerging markets has been the limited access to traditional banking and financial services. Millions of people in these regions remain unbanked or underbanked, but AI is rapidly changing this landscape. Fintech companies are utilizing AI algorithms to assess credit risk, enabling those without a traditional credit history to access loans and financial services.
In October, KPMG India, and Vianai Systems, a human-centered AI (H+AI) platform and products company, tied up to put reliable, conversational AI directly into the hands of finance users with Vianai’s hila Enterprise.
“Delivering the power of AI into the hands of finance users is a foundational step toward making AI available to all business-critical functions. Finance departments and teams must have transparency in their work and deliver transparency to the outside world – with speed,” says Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, Chief Design and Strategy Officer, Vianai Systems.
AI-powered chatbots and mobile apps are aiding people to manage finances and payments securely. In countries like India, where the government has promoted digital payment systems, AI-driven financial tools have played a crucial role in boosting financial inclusion.
Agriculture & Food Security
Agriculture remains a critical sector in many emerging markets, providing livelihoods to a significant portion of the population. AI-powered solutions have introduced innovations that improve farming practices and enhance food security.
AI algorithms can predict crop diseases, recommend optimal planting times, and monitor weather patterns, enabling farmers to increase crop yields and make more informed decisions. In Africa, for instance, AI-powered mobile apps have become valuable tools for smallholder farmers, providing access to agricultural information and market prices. India is seeing several efforts in this regard.
Recently, Arya.ag, an Indian grain commerce platform, along with Bioseed, launched a satellite surveillance product, Prakshep, combined with the power of its AI ‘VaMa’ to up the game in farm surveillance and data-driven decision-making. Sreekanth Chundi, Executive Director and Business Head, Shriram Bioseed Genetics, says AI and the agricultural field “promise a more informed future for Indian farmers.”
“Physical monitoring is often time-consuming and expensive, and there also exists a challenge of human bias,” he adds.
Similarly, Leads Connect Services, an AgTech data, risk management, and financial services company, and Ensuredit, an AI-based platform-as-a-service (PaaS) insurtech provider in India, tied up to establish a strategic joint venture (JV) to harness the power of technology, data analytics, and industry insights to improve the financial resilience of farmers and agribusinesses by developing tailored insurance products that help with enhanced risk management.
Healthcare & Telemedicine
Access to quality healthcare has been a longstanding concern in emerging markets. AI is stepping in to bridge this gap by enabling telemedicine and remote healthcare services.
“It is deeply disappointing to me that universal access to quality healthcare is still lacking worldwide in 2023. But advances in healthcare through AI will soon change that. I participated, for example, in a project that could detect septic shock an hour before it occurs using AI and pattern recognition. Thus, AI technology will raise living standards by detecting disease states before they occur,” says Puscar.
AI algorithms are used for diagnosing diseases, interpreting medical images, and even predicting disease outbreaks. Telemedicine platforms powered by AI allow patients in remote areas to consult with healthcare professionals and receive medical advice, reducing the barriers to healthcare access.
Recently, Xume, an Indian AI-powered grocery scoring and recommendation platform, tied up with Microbiome.in, a research platform in the field of gut microbiome and, TruDiagno, a diagnostics startup. The trio aims to empower individuals with individualised in-depth diagnostics, converting that information into actionable real-time intelligence. The idea is to enable individuals to make informed choices based on the state of their gut microbiome and key diagnostic markers.
“We’re all unique, so how can a generic solution mired in restriction be the answer to good health? Imagine the power of understanding our microbiome and diagnostic markers to drive actionable intelligence, where the answer is not giving up our favourite foods but simply making better choices based on what our gut and body are telling us. This is the future of health and wellness,” says Akshaye Jalan, Founder & CEO, Xume.
Also, Molbio Diagnostics, a company in the field of portable testing devices, tied up with SigTuple, a MedTech startup in the field of AI for diagnostics, to build enabled portable devices for many routine but critical diagnostic tests. These devices will enable testing to be performed at the point-of-care — a doctor’s chamber, a public health centre, or an emergency room of a hospital – without having to send samples to central laboratories.
Education & Language Support
Quality education is crucial for economic and social development, yet many in emerging markets face challenges such as language barriers. AI is helping by providing language translation and educational support. AI-driven language translation apps are aiding students in learning and understanding foreign languages, opening up opportunities for global collaboration and skill development. Additionally, AI-powered educational platforms offer personalized learning experiences, adapting to individual student needs and making education more accessible and effective.
“AI is the first technology since the advent of the Internet that can truly establish equity in education. Poverty of course translates to less opportunities in education. But while the Internet brought vast knowledge to those who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to buy an encyclopedia or find a textbook, companies are using AI to improve the quality of education, personalizing it to the individual. Soon, one-size-fits-all 300 student lecture halls will be replaced with individualized learning, providing opportunities never seen before,” predicts Puscar.
Power to the Layman
On Monday November 6th, Sam Altman hosted OpenAI’s first Dev Day, showcasing how AI technology is easily available to everyone, and how it’s going to touch the lives of every person on the planet. He said that over 100 million people now use GPT on a weekly basis, and more than two million people are using their API.
Puscar says what he found compelling about the event was that it showed the power AI puts into the layman’s hands.
“It shows how a layman can easily train what I will call an “agent” – a type of chatbot that can be trained with images and documents. He showed how you can take a diary, or papers that someone has written, or transcripts of their conversations, and easily hold a conversation with an AI that will respond eerily similar,” he says.
Challenges & Considerations
While AI holds immense promise for consumers in emerging markets, it also brings challenges. Privacy concerns, data security, and ethical considerations are the concerns today. Also, there is a need for infrastructure development to ensure that AI-based solutions can deliver even in the most remote areas.
AI is transforming the lives of consumers in emerging markets like India. The potential for AI to empower individuals, improve access to essential services, and enhance overall quality of life is enormous. As governments, businesses, and organizations continue to invest in AI solutions, we can expect even more significant positive changes in these regions in the years to come. With the right strategies, AI can help bridge the gap between developed and emerging markets, bringing about a more equitable and prosperous world.
Navanwita Sachdev is the Editor of The Tech Panda.