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CONNECT WITH: AARON BOASMAN-PATEL

Hi Aaron, please introduce yourself.

I am Aaron Boasman-Patel, and I am the Vice-President of AI, Customer Experience and Data at TM Forum. TM Forum is a non-profit global industry association made up of over 850+ members which solves complex industry-wide challenges. I am responsible for leading the best practice and standards collaboration groups in these areas as well as authoring reports and whitepapers on these very important topics. I am hugely passionate about artificial intelligence and the impact it is not only going to have on the telecoms industry but also society as a whole. My main areas of focus within AI is AI Governance, AI-enabled Operations, data governance and using AI to improve the digital customer experience.

What are some criteria that you’ll be looking out for the awards?

The criteria that I am looking for in the awards is really about innovation and delivering value. Innovation needs to be at the heart of what operators and technology companies do. In order to survive and thrive and keep up with the hyper-scale players they need to keep innovating and pushing boundaries. Innovation, however, on its own is not enough. Any solution to any problem, no matter how innovative it may or may not be, has to deliver real business value.

COVID-19 has accelerated advancements in tech – were there any particular advancements in AI that were significant?

COVID-19 for me has really highlighted the existing challenges that service providers and the industry as a whole face. That is around a lack of a common and consistent data model, dirty data and a lack of standardization and good AI governance which is stopping CSPs deploying AI at scale. There is also, of course the issue of lack of skills availability and talent in AI. COVID-19 has caused a rise in internet usage of between 30-45% so network resilience is as important as ever. AI needs to be deployed on the network to increase network resiliency to manage the 1 billion devices connected to the internet, to ensure customers receive a great customer experience and the service levels they expect and pay for. Enabling AI operations will really help with fault detection and analysis as well as capacity optimization and predictive and preventative maintance. All of this is needed to deliver 5G services. I am hoping COVID-19 has put these issues into the spotlight so CSPs can really focus on building the intelligent and automated networks of the future.

Human biases unavoidably makes its way into AI – has this problem improved over the last few years? What more can we do?

What is becoming apparent with AI, is that it is much more than just human bias which can have detrimental effects on the decisions the AI makes. We have to remember the AI will only ever be as good as the data it has and also the parameters in which it is trained. I focus very much on the IT, networks and operations side of AI and it is amazing the amount of bias that can creep into the decision making which has nothing to do with humans. A good example of this was recently in medicine, where wrong cancer diagnosis were potentially being given. It had nothing to do with patient data bias but instead the colour of the identity tag that was put on the patient. The AI started to associate certain tag colours with a higher rate of cancer diagnosis. It is these sorts of unplanned and accidental biases which we also need to be made aware of. As the AI technology develops, we are becoming much more aware of the different types of things that can cause bias in decision making, and that goes far beyond human bias, especially when you are running a telecoms network.

Will ConnecTechAsia be the first fully virtual event you’ll be attending/speaking at? How do you feel about the show going virtual?

ConnectTechAsia won’t be the first fully virtual event that I have spoken at, BUT, I am really looking forward to it and seeing what different things happen at this event. I was really hoping to attend in person, but am now looking forward to interacting with everybody online! It is a technology event after all, so lets make the best of it and really show what great things and experiences our industry achieves.

Finally, what do you like doing in your spare time?

I am a huge history geek, so I love reading and researching my specialist area which is Britain and France 1500-1800 as well as country house life 1850-1914. I am looking forward to visiting some stately homes over the next few months as they slowly start to reopen. I am hoping to start writing my first history book soon, so will be going for much needed inspiration! I’ve enjoyed spending the lockdown at home with my dog Charlie and helping a few elderly neighbors with daily errands.

Learn more about the awards and meet judge Aaron Boasman-Patel at ConnecTechAsia 2020, happening 29th September - 1st October. Register your visit here.