[eNews] Reimagine Business with AI

From Shifting Talent Acquisition Trends to Transforming ESG in the Digital Economy

This article is based on a discussion featuring Professor HUI Kai Lung, Senior Associate Dean of HKUST Business School, and Mr Fred SHEU, National Technology Officer of Microsoft Hong Kong.

The pandemic has rushed our world through a rapid digital transformation. Among businesses, this has also driven an accelerated adoption of AI and other related technologies. As remote teams and hybrid work from home arrangements became our new normal, possessing solid digital skills also became vital for many businesses and professionals to respond swiftly to global changes.

Acquiring future skills for the digital economy

The pandemic disruption and other global challenges has persistently increased the requirements of digital skills and the demand for AI talent around the world. According to a report published by McKinsey on the future of the workforce, jobs that require digital skills will continue to increase by more than 60% by 2030. Current and future leaders in Asia must upskill and shift their mindset to manage an increasingly diversified and remote workforce. This will also help future-proofing businesses in dealing with change and overcoming challenges.

Nurturing future leaders requires societal-wide participation for talent to learn and thrive in the digital age. Academic institutions are partnering with corporate organizations to offer comprehensive programme for talent to gain fundamental digital skills and invaluable multi-disciplinary experience. To this end, HKUST Business School follows a multi-pronged strategy and offers courses in fundamental programming techniques, data analytical skills, general knowledge of economics and other business subjects. The School has recently stepped up its partnership with Microsoft Hong Kong to better equip business students with AI-centric digital skills.

Although harnessing digital skills is vital for success in our new economy, the ability to apply them appropriately in real-life situations is equally important. Continuous exposure to multidisciplinary thinking, mindset, and application within and beyond the classroom can help students recognize how their education can be utilised in various industries. This ensures that the future talent pool is not only dominated by technology users, but also by creators to continue innovating and driving the digital frontier forwards.

Echoing the academia’s side of multi-disciplinary learning, businesses are also becoming more aware of what is happening around the world and innovating new solutions to transform the way they work within and beyond their industries.

Towards sustainability and beyond

Leaders should also increase their awareness of global issues to support their community, industry, or the economy with sustainability and ESG initiatives. Although the application of AI to sustainability remains an emerging academic topic, a collaboration between the corporate and academic sectors is currently underway for mutual support.

On the corporate front, various organizations are developing various sustainability solutions to combat carbon emissions internally and externally. A partnership between Microsoft and Project Bonsai has led to the development of a unique AI model to reduce energy spent on heating and cooling buildings. It has helped reduce carbon emissions and the project duration. Microsoft also launched Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability for their customers to record, report and use data to carry out meaningful actions and reduce the carbon footprint of their organisations.

On the academic front, researchers are also contributing further insights and case studies to complement the corporate sector. HKUST Business School has launched a government-funded inter-disciplinary research project to explore the development of green finance and sustainability. The funding has enabled the school to gather faculty members across various disciplines, including finance, accounting, computer science, and environmental research, to examine the impact of ESG development on society and the economy.

The school is also driving the public’s interest in green finance and sustainability through new education programs, including undergraduate program on green finance and adding ESG and sustainability courses to executive-level programs.

Ethical considerations and limitations of AI

AI has gifted humanity with new opportunities to do good in the world. Yet, it is our responsibility to consider these questions when developing AI solutions:

  • How far can AI take us?
  • How far should we dive into this technology?
In fact, AI applications often run into the challenges of how much data people should disclose for an AI model to function properly. The principle should ensure a proportional consideration of people’s privacy and dignity are made before collecting data for AI predictions. Furthermore, companies should establish the appropriate measures to manage sensitive AI cases and mitigate risks by assessing any sensitive projects that may breach governance before market launch. AI ethics and safety should also be embedded in academic digital courses to nurture responsible talent to innovate in a positive way.

Presently, businesses are developing solutions that securely protect personal data with the latest encryption and confidential computing technology. These solutions are available on Microsoft’s cloud platform and other cloud service providers. Other solutions also focus on implementing multiple layers of consensus that allow people to contribute their data for a good cause.

The future of AI and beyond

Technology has no boundaries, and AI, when applied properly, can drive tremendous impact on society and our future. As the development of technology continues to advance, AI and other complex technologies are becoming more accessible in the form of no-code technology stacks and more for professionals of all backgrounds. However, gaining cross-disciplinary experiences and an open and innovative thinking mindset remain key to applying AI correctly and capturing business opportunities successfully. Such exposure from as early on as the undergraduate level will also make space for future talent to continue exploring and expanding the frontier of technology.


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