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Distinguished Speaker Series: AI and the Global Supply Chain

Sep 23, 2019
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As global supply chains integrate artificial intelligence at every level — from customer service chatbots to rapid product inspection — business and policy leaders must consider the government’s role in regulating the new technology. 

Expert panelists discussed the complexities on Sept. 19, 2019, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business during an installment of the Distinguished Speaker Series, a thought leadership event at the school’s Center for Global Business. 

“It is the troika of the government, businesses and individuals,” said Suketu Gandhi, panelist and partner at A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm. “When you think about data, it is the three sides coming together. That’s where the power lives.”

Government organizations, from small cities to worldwide agencies, are grappling with regulations surrounding data privacy, standards, development and reskilling workers in supply chains, as engineers create AI to dominate thousands of processes. 

On the positive side, “governments are sitting on huge caches of data and how to unlock it, to bring more value economically for their citizens,” said panelist John Miller, vice president of policy and senior counsel of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC). “You see a host of proposals in the U.S., a recent White House AI strategy put forward, research and development money pledged. Governments are focused on how to get a competitive advantage.”

However, panelist Emad AlJunaidi, chief procurement officer at Tronox, is wary of a digital divide between disagreeing governments. “A phenomena is societies trying to overregulate and societies that don’t want to,” AlJunaidi said. “That clash, the different view of how that happens, has a significant impact on progress and how trade will happen.”

Government regulation of data and AI will significantly impact the global supply chain, panelists agreed. The regulation comes from a valid data privacy concern, Miller said. But broad restrictions could undermine the technology. 

“It’s not just domestic privacy laws at issue, it’s restrictions about transferring data across borders,” Miller said. “Figuring out how to build trust in this global digital ecosystem and economy is so important.”

Panelists agreed that the human element to AI would always be important, at least in our lifetimes.

“There are examples of an algorithm able to only recognize one type of human being,” Gandhi said. “You can only detect [that bias] after it processes something and determines an outcome. In supply chain, until we can be confident, human beings have to have their hand on the rudder.”

Suresh Acharya, a professor of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies at Maryland Smith, moderated the event. Join the Center for the next installment of the Distinguished Speaker Series to discuss North American Trade and the USMCA on Oct. 15, 2019 at 6 p.m.

The DSS is supported in part by CIBE, a Title VI grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kira Barrett, Maryland Smith communications writer

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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