08/12/2020

Adopting AI in Social Listening for Businesses

By Abhimanyu Saighal

Covid-19 has witnessed a massive shift of Indians toward online platforms for both economic activity and communication. This has led to mass production of data on an unprecedented scale from a dramatic increase in the number of online users. AI is instrumental in analyzing this data for the economy.

India’s policymakers have been contemplating the impact of AI and creating a roadmap for its growth for a while now. A varied range of applications across sectors (including manufacturing, agriculture among others) are being developed on AI. AI has already demonstrated its potential within developmental challenges as well including addressing society’s requirements in healthcare, education and banking.

Source: Figure 5, Source: Accenture. Discussion Paper - National Strategy forArtificial Intelligence. NITI Aayog, June 2018.

In their 2020 report regarding the implications of AI on the Indian economy, NASSCOM warns that any quantitative predictions on the economic impact of AI should be understood with the caveat that currently data on AI’s adoption is not fully available or inadequately reflected in the metrics used to compute economic growth. The difficulty of measuring the economic impact of AI is also exacerbated because of its varied magnitudes and indirect effects on productivity.

 But industry experts are generally in consensus over the fact that all Indian sectors will be definitely impacted in one way or the other by the adoption of AI. The social listening industry in particular will witness greater deployment of AI in the next decade. Companies will be able to analyze data and respond to consumer feedback faster by using AI in social listening. This will allow for greater customization and drive innovation in this sphere.

The surge in companies transitioning to AI-based practices is best explained by the fact that there are tangible benefits in the reduction of their labor costs. This is exemplified in the process of Social Listening (where social media channels are monitored for insights regarding a company’s products, brand and competitors asa component of audience research).

A pertinent example of AI-based technologies being deployed in social listening is NetImpact Solutions, a company that works on big data and social analytics. The company deploys AI through machine learning to process and analyse user conversations surrounding brand-related topics. The primary factor that caused NetImpact to implement AI and machine learning algorithms was that such technologies translated to more accurate results being obtained faster.

There remains a considerable need for human intervention however, since a substantial amount of time is still required to validate the results produced by a Machine Learning algorithm. “A human has to go through the generated results to verify that a particular task has been performed correctly. This implies that a human is needed to painstakingly check hundreds and thousands of data points in order for such an algorithm to be effective," states Rahul Saighal, Founder and Managing Director of NetImpact Solutions.

In terms of building on the foundation of AI talent that has been already been established in India,Mr. Saighal opines that the government could subsidize AI trainings and encourage large corporations and industry bodies to join hands for the purpose of supporting AI scaling through a large number of skilled developers. For instance, Microsoft, NASSCOM and FutureSkills jointly launched an AI classroom series to equip India's future workforce with AI capabilities. This is in line with NASSCOM’s policy recommendation for the Indian government on addressingIndia’s skill gap in AI.

Other notable recommendations laid forth by NASSCOM include identifying a nodal agency within the government that will concentrate on the development and diffusion of AI, building collaborative frameworks for engagement between governments, industry and academia and building an all-encompassing data strategy for encouraging reliable, safe and inclusive data sharing practices in India. These recommendations are slated to receive increased attention from the government in the immediate future.

The post-Covid era will witness a dramatic change in favor of AI in India, since the challenges of the epidemic have led to a significant increase in the development of its applications across sectors (particularly healthcare). The pre-pandemic hypothesis already predicted that adoption of AI practices across industry sectors in India was going to break trend and spike. The Covid-19 pandemic has ensured the increased probability for this through faster diffusion across the Indian economy.