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Is AI integration in Bangladesh’s businesses a double-edged sword?

Published : Friday, 22 September, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 466

The adoption of AI stands out among the many significant steps Bangladesh has taken toward a tech-driven future. When applied to business, AI can completely transform how companies are managed. We must keep sight of the potential implications this may have on our society, particularly regarding ethics, equality, and accountability, even though AI helps businesses advance with increased efficiency and smaller error margins.

Automation of laborious tasks, analysis of large data sets, and providing insightful actions are just some of the many benefits AI brings to businesses in Bangladesh. The most important thing is to figure out how much money this progress will cost. Despite our excitement about AI and its revolutionary potential, we must tread carefully as we consider the social consequences of its broad adoption.

Many obstacles must be overcome before artificial intelligence may be used ethically in business contexts. One primary source of worry is the potential for discrimination and prejudice in AI algorithms that play a crucial role in decision-making. Considering the situation of a financial institution in Bangladesh that has used a loan approval system powered by AI. Since this AI was taught using historical data, it may unwittingly reflect and perpetuate the societal prejudices present in the material it was trained on. For instance, the AI may continue to deny loans to persons from particular areas regardless of their creditworthiness if the data indicates a prejudice against granting loans to residents of these areas due to higher default rates. Even if the bias were accidental, this would still be the case. This hypothetical situation illustrates the ethical severe concern that AI can aggravate pre-existing societal inequalities.

Another instance would be a corporation in Bangladesh using AI for hiring purposes; this AI would be trained using information about open positions in the company's history. For example, the company has a history of giving preferential treatment to candidates from specific educational backgrounds or social classes. This trend could be perpetuated by AI, resulting in an unfair employment process that excludes qualified people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

These incidents underscore the need for transparency in AI decision-making, proactive approaches to reduce prejudice, and fairness in algorithmic decision-making. Bangladesh's industries are looking into the potential of AI, and as they do so, they must find a middle ground between technological progress and ethical standards. Ethical standards and policies must be established to ensure that businesses can successfully navigate the AI landscape and that societal well-being can be sustained alongside innovation.

Given AI's pervasive effect across all sectors in Bangladesh, we must look at the impacts on employment patterns. Despite AI's promise to advance humanity, it also threatens to automate away some jobs. For example, Bangladesh's textile industry employs a sizable proportion of the country's labour force. If AI-powered technology is widely adopted, it has the potential to render many of the current tasks associated with the manual production of textiles unnecessary. These sudden job losses may widen the unemployment gap and social tensions.

Furthermore, the ready-made garments (RMG) sector employs millions of individuals, many of whom have specialized skills essential to the success of the RMG industry and the economy in Bangladesh. The widespread unemployment that could emerge from introducing AI technology in this area without simultaneously launching a workforce re-skilling program will widen the gap between the skilled and unskilled labour force.

A more egalitarian transition into an AI-driven economy is possible, but only if preventative measures are taken, such as providing extensive AI literacy and skills training programs. Every segment of Bangladeshi society must stay caught up to the rest of the country during this period of technological revolution.

The need to strike a balance between stimulating innovation and retaining social responsibility is a fundamental problem posed by the integration of AI into the existing corporate ecosystem in Bangladesh. During this change, businesses must recognize that they must be ethical stewards. Chatbots and AI-assisted credit scoring are just two examples of AI-driven services that, if implemented correctly, may drastically improve the customer experience and the speed businesses carry out their daily tasks. For instance, it is crucial to the system's fairness to ensure that the AI-assisted credit scoring system does not discriminate based on location or socioeconomic status.

Businesses adopting AI should not do anything compromising customers' personal information. As AI becomes more widespread in sectors like e-commerce and telecoms, companies have a duty to their customers to protect their data and only use it in ways that align with acceptable privacy practices.

To prevent AI from further aggravating societal inequalities, it is critical to address the issue of algorithmic bias. AI employed in hiring, for instance, shouldn't discriminate based on a candidate's socioeconomic status or alma mater. Instead, it ought to be based on merit.  As a result, as more businesses in Bangladesh employ AI, the ethical framework and legislation governing its deployment need to be explicitly established. Fairness, openness, privacy, and bias should all be factored into these plans. Taking such a cautious approach would allow businesses to harness AI's promise in a way that benefits society and technology equally.

How can we retain social responsibility while fostering innovation by introducing AI into the commercial sector in Bangladesh? During this change, businesses must recognize and embrace their role as ethical guardians. For example, AI-based diagnostic technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way patients are cared for and illnesses are handled in the medical field. In a country like Bangladesh, where there is a significant disparity between the levels of healthcare resources accessible in urban and rural areas, the deployment of AI needs to be approached with the utmost prudence.

These advancements may leave behind under-resourced healthcare facilities in rural areas, widening the existing disparities in service. However, these developments could significantly benefit state-of-the-art medical facilities like Dhaka. Due to the stakes, the healthcare industry must adopt a transparent, fair, and methodical approach to deploying AI. Healthcare providers in rural areas may only benefit as much from artificial intelligence capabilities if the government and healthcare organizations prioritize improving the infrastructure in those places.

Furthermore, algorithmic bias remains a serious issue, with the potential to make AI worsen societal inequalities. For instance, AI used in hiring should be trained to favour people based on their skills and experience, not their family background or where they went to college.

This would guarantee that candidates are chosen according to their actual merits. To reach this objective, businesses must ensure that AI development teams are inclusive, perform regular bias checks, and hone their AI algorithms until they can provide a merit-based solution.

Finally, firms in Bangladesh need to approach the AI revolution with an ethical compass if they want to succeed. Concerns like fairness, transparency, privacy, and minimizing bias should all be factored into the legislation and standards regulating AI's introduction.

To this end, firms can collaborate with AI ethicists, policymakers, and other stakeholders to establish audit systems and formulate ethical guidelines for using AI.

Governments must also do their bit by laying out comprehensive guidelines for AI and enforcing them. By taking these precautions, we can steer the AI transition responsibly, fostering an environment where innovation may flourish without endangering people's lives.

Farin Sabrina, BBA Student, BRAC Business School, BRAC University and Dr. Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Assistant Professor of Marketing, BRAC Business School, BRAC University

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