Canadian workers and businesses can guide the GenAI revolution

We have a rare opportunity right now. In what promises to be one of the most transformational moments in human history – akin to the discovery of fire or the invention of the internet – we stand on the precipice of the Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) revolution, with a remarkable chance to harness its power and tailor it to serve our needs.

As the technology gathers extraordinary momentum with each passing day, I echo the excitement, yet empathize with the healthy skepticism. People are wondering, how will GenAI shape my career? My business? My education? The answer lies in our willingness to embrace it.

To unlock its true potential, I urge Canadian businesses to prioritize adopting GenAI as a revolutionary technology that benefits workers, enhances productivity, boosts global competitiveness and ultimately strengthens the Canadian economy – now and for generations to come.

This means addressing GenAI hesitancy with a framework of responsible AI, weaving ethical design and implementation into every strategic plan and ensuring positive social outcomes, is top of mind for leaders across government and industry. With an intentional and action-oriented approach, we can collectively propel Canada towards global leadership in this unprecedented era of advancement.

Increasing productivity for Canadian workers

One in five Canadians use GenAI. Of those, 83 per cent use it to help them at work. How can we integrate the majority of workers who lag behind? Let’s start by framing GenAI as a tool for all.

One of the most compelling characteristics of GenAI is its ability to act as an equalizer and level the playing field, as tools like ChatGPT are accessible to nearly every connected worker in the same way and with the same bank of information. Even students training in their field have personalized learning at their fingertips, enabling broader career choices and promoting equity in our education system and beyond.

The deeply personalized nature of the technology makes it capable of supporting the unique needs of a diverse workforce across skill sets, industries and professional experiences. For our marketers and communicators at Telus, GenAI assists with creativity generation and copywriting. For our software engineers, it acts as a copilot to write and reduce errors in code. For our customer service agents, we’re developing solutions to enhance customer experience through personalized recommendations, tailored responses and reduced wait times.

GenAI can significantly improve efficiency, in terms of both time and workload management. In the near future, it will work as a 24/7 personal assistant by automating routine tasks and supporting complex ones – freeing up time so workers can focus on more strategic, creative, or customer-facing aspects of their jobs.

From healthcare to telecommunications, the technology will become a surefire solution for Canada’s productivity problem. Already contributing to a quantum leap in productivity, GenAI is capable of adding $210 billion to the Canadian economy and saving the average Canadian worker over 100 hours a year. For example, physicians in this country spend over 18 million hours on administrative work every year – the equivalent of 55.6 million patient visits. Imagine if we automated even half of those tasks, relieving pressure on an already exhausted medical system. The possibilities for this kind of augmentation are limitless.

As adoption continues, it’s clear that workers with GenAI knowledge are far more likely to excel than workers without it because they understand how to best employ the technology in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Canadian businesses bringing AI on board

Workers should feel optimistic about how GenAI can empower them to work better, smarter and faster. Equally as critical, business leaders must foster its enthusiastic integration into the workplace. To unlock the full potential of GenAI-powered innovation, we need a highly-skilled workforce with a digital mindset and a strong focus on continuous learning.

At Telus, we’re doing this by piloting a set of internal GenAI tools and encouraging our team members to experiment with them in ways that improve their creativity, productivity, and efficiency, while also benefiting our customers, communities, and business.

We share resources on what makes a good prompt, and our internal GenAI chatbot offers a secure and reliable way to play with the technology on the job. We run inclusive communities of practice, elevate subject matter experts across various fields, and celebrate use cases. To foster even deeper engagement, team members can submit their own GenAI solutions, and experts are available to potentially bring them to life.

Taking on GenAI as a strategic imperative, with a strong focus on upskilling, enables businesses to stay competitive in our complex economic environment. With well-equipped workers, businesses – big and small – have better ways of driving product development, operational optimization, and high-quality customer service. And because numerous GenAI tools are currently available to the public at no cost, we must capitalize on this low barrier entry point sooner rather than later.

A framework for responsible adoption

Unsurprisingly, 81 per cent of Canadians believe data privacy, security, and governance are the most important factors in trusting AI. Because we’re only at the start of where GenAI is going to take us, Canadian workers and businesses must advocate for a human-centered and ethical approach to the technology – one that is built on trust and collaboration.

In conversations and public consultations on AI use, policy and regulation, we must all be vocal about our experiences and seize the opportunity to shape the future of this technology – an option we did not have when social networks first gained a similar level of influence. Accelerated integration, done responsibly, means revolutionary industry advancement that reinforces the resilience of our Canadian economy in the face of global competition.

By understanding how GenAI fits in each of our domains, we can harness it as an economic powerhouse while creating the guardrails required for safe adoption. No matter your role in business, it’s time to bring GenAI to the forefront of innovation.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Hesham Fahmy
Hesham Fahmy
As Chief Information Officer (CIO) at TELUS, Hesham Fahmy is spearheading TELUS’ transformation to a digital-first, cloud-enabled technology leader delivering world-leading customer experiences. An innovator with seven granted patents, Hesham has a track record of launching disruptive products and platforms in retail, IoT, fintech and development tooling. In 2023, Hesham was recognized as “CIO of the Year” by IT World Canada.

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