Ginni Rometty at NILF 2017 – The Power of Cognitive Computing


She is a globetrotter. Only three days earlier she was in Africa, and yet she took a 16-hr flight from the US to come down to Mumbai to address the Keynote at NILF. A brief halt, and she would be homebound the very same day. It speaks volumes of her energy level, commitment, and high regards she has for NASSCOM and the Indian IT industry. Perpetually armed with brilliant repartees, she can have the audience in splits, and alternately hold them in thrall with deep insights.

To begin with, she said that the world was undergoing major shifts in social, political and tech spheres, and this could be a historic moment. Likely that sceptics would view this as the era of retrenchments, stoked by the yawning gap between haves and have nots. However, it can also be the age of great hope if we choose to see it. Cognitive technologies will lend greatness to a world which many believe to be in turmoil.

Ginni Rometty, the Chairwoman of IBM was in conversation with Raman Roy, Chairman of Quatrro at NILF 2017. Her address focussed on three big ideas:

  1. Artificial Intelligence is now mainstream and changing very rapidly, especially the way we make decisions.
  2. India is digitizing faster than other nations, and is in a very strong position to leverage these new opportunities.
  3. As we usher in a golden era, we ought to do so wisely.

AI Becoming Mainstream

It is impacting the way organisations now look at consumers which is impacting their decision making rather significantly. It’s a 33 billion USD opportunity, just to keep them engaged.

5 quick observations she made:

  • The range of services encompasses cognitive technologies and not restricted to AI alone.
  • It will bring about a very high degree of transparency.
  • It will be useful, if it can be channelized towards specific domains like healthcare, education etc.
  • It will have to reside in the cloud.
  • And, supported by an open platform.

She spoke about IBM Watson the AI platform which will make the world go cognitive. First seen in a game of “Jeopardy” in 2011, it came to light after nearly a decade of intensive research. It is estimated that by the end of 2017, a billion people would have been impacted by Watson. These areas will be in Healthcare (especially Precision Medicine), Education, Finance, Retail and even cybersecurity.

Indian Market

Rometty believes that India has a tremendous future in cognitive technologies and this is because the speed at which the nation was digitizing, was unprecedented. And of course, the sheer volume of data that can be fed into systems to make machine learning more accurate. India has a very strong base in IT, and by 2020 the world’s largest developer population will be from India. She was highly appreciative of the startups and believes that many are already engaged in doing cutting-edge work which can change the world. She was all praises for Prime Minister Modi’s vision on making India the digital hub.


Sure it’s the golden age but we must tread with caution. We live in a world where tough questions like the future of jobs will have to be addressed, including the impact of technologies in our daily lives. Petabytes and zetabytes of data shared, aid in machine learning to draw insights. Guided principles will have to be firmly put in place to ensure insights are not passed on to competitors. This is very important because the possibility of misuse is incredibly high.

The skills of the future will not be classified under blue collar or even white colour, and as Ginni Rometty said, these skills were apt to be bucketed as New Collared. Obviously the pipeline has to be built and this can happen only through PPP models. These skills may not come through university degrees, and an alternate approach would be required alongside the regular curriculum. We have to leverage this opportunity right away and not be tentative about it.

Data as a Resource

The age of data will pervade every career and organizations would be tasked with re-skilling the workforce, which in turn would create many new jobs as older ones get dislocated. The society would also undergo a fundamental shift in thinking, starting right at school level.

We have to start looking at data as we do for natural resources. Value lies with people who have access to the resources, and in a data driven world we have to build a very high degree of trust in order to avoid misuse. This can only happen when strong principles are created under a charter which is legally enforceable. Trust is paramount.

Cognitive technologies can unleash a whole new world of opportunities for people who had hitherto no access. From a healthcare perspective, think about the sheer number of lives that can be impacted. With that, she drew a thundering round of applause.

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1 Comment

  1. Gini has been at the forefront in promoting the power of cognitive computing.  She has done an excellent job in establishing the power of cognitive computing as the next big inflexion point.

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