Advancing IBM’s Global AI Strategy with Alessandro Curioni

Advancing IBM’s Global AI Strategy with Alessandro Curioni
AI Magazine considers how IBM Is developing its AI strategy in 2024, with insights from company fellow and VP of Europe and Africa, Alessandro Curioni

Now more than ever, it is vital for businesses harnessing AI to have an appropriate strategy in place.

With the rising tide of AI demand coinciding with new cybersecurity threats, a clear AI strategy is paramount for organisations to ensure that they are harnessing AI in the best possible way. If used safely and ethically, AI holds the key to improved productivity, decision-making and innovations.

IBM is one such company helping to lead the charge in 2024. AI Magazine spoke with IBM Fellow, Vice-President of Europe and Africa and Director of IBM Research in Zurich, Alessandro Curioni, at IBM Zurich’s Media Event at the end of 2023.

The next stages of ethical AI

Witnessing the transition from physical-based to data-driven computational science, Curioni is no stranger to digital transformation. Having been the recipient of the Gordon Bell Prize twice in his career, he became an IBM Fellow in 2014. His focus today is to amplify IBM’s impact via new technologies such as AI and quantum computing, spanning across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

IBM is one of the companies at the forefront of AI. Its watsonx platform provides the instruments for organisations to refine or create AI models based on pre-existing models. 

At the end of 2023, the corporation released watsonx.governance to help businesses automate responsible, transparent machine learning and generative AI (Gen AI) workflows. IBM says that the platform will help businesses eliminate the mystery around the data going in and the answers coming out of their AI models.

Whilst AI models at this scale have a wide variety of use cases, Curioni stresses the importance of governance to IBM. “With foundation models, the proper governance to enable responsible AI is vital,” he says. “Once you have a big model, everything bad is transferred to other small models that you create from that.”

Developing and harnessing an AI model that is free of bias is the end goal, as businesses seek to be more transparent to identify and tackle these issues when they arise.

Curioni says: “That's why it's important to have a technology that allows not only governance but dynamic governance. Now, you have the possibility to continuously test how your models behave across several dimensions. You need to have a way to bring out a model that is compliant - that is our approach.”

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IBM’s latest milestones in foundation models

Curioni highlights that IBM’s priorities are digital labour, which means creating technology that is able to automate business processes at large. This, in addition to customer care via Watson Assistant, for example, can create assistants and chatbots that are personalised to specific use cases.

“We expect to have a chatbot that knows who you are, that knows the level of dialogue that you want to have, and remember questions that you have asked in the past,” Curioni says, highlighting some of the efficiencies of this technology.

AI coding is just one of many time savers that the technology can offer. IBM has cited that AI code-generation tools save time and allow developers to generate code faster, thereby reducing manual work and allowing them to focus on more important tasks.

Another AI use case that Curioni cites is cybersecurity, highlighting that problems arise when businesses use AI in cybersecurity for only a handful of models because of time restraints. 

Ensuring that these models are created with supervised learning is vital, Curioni adds. Developers can create AI foundational models for cybersecurity that are infused with full threat detection capabilities in order to keep essential systems safe.

Harnessing technology and AI: The importance of skills development

The importance of skills development is essential, in line with the skills gap perforating through numerous key industries. Working to close the skills gap has been the priority of plenty of technology companies.

IBM has been working consistently to facilitate upskilling, particularly in the realm of technology and AI. In fact, the company pledged in 2021 to reskill 30 million people worldwide by 2030. A part of this commitment was launching SkillsBuild: IBM’s online platform with more than 1,000 courses covering AI, cybersecurity, data science, cloud and software development.

“We are already doing a lot of work to try to enable universities and schools to teach the right skills to enable people,” Curioni says.

“When it comes to skills we are going to do more. We have a vision that AI, in order to be really responsible and transparent, has to be also open. It is going to help to engage more community ecosystems so that skills can be developed faster.”

IBM tools like Code Assistant have been created with the aim of reskilling professional workforces, whilst leveraging the power of AI. It is allowing employees to learn new types of code quickly alongside daily work responsibilities.

“This type of technology, when grown to scale, will help people to reskill using AI,” Curioni says.

In 2024, the outlook for IBM is bright. The company’s annual strategy places AI, governance and trust at the centre of its roadmap, ensuring that its digital systems are equally reliable and transparent.

“Everybody has been speaking about AI and its impact and the fact that it is going to be transformational. Now is the year where these things are happening,” says Curioni.

“The same is for quantum. We have been working, developing and pushing. 2024 is going to be a year in which we will see quantum really reaching maturity. The intersection of the two is all to be discovered.”

He continues: “That is even more exciting because you have something that you don't know where it is going to go. When have new students joining the lab, I tell them: ‘You don't know how lucky you are to start to be a researcher today.’ When I started to do these things, I was forced to use an architectural computer that was developed by somebody else that definitely was not delivering on the purpose of what I wanted to do. 

“Today you are designing the new era of computing. While you are working, you are designing. You have technologies that, for the first time, allow you to simulate the world and really have an impact. 

“I would like to go back 30 years and restart.”


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