artificial intelligence

PH tech firm hosts AI app challenge to scope tech’s potential in various industries

Christa Escudero

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PH tech firm hosts AI app challenge to scope tech’s potential in various industries
Symph CEO Dave Overton wants to challenge people to think about AI use in their fields: 'How might you use this in your industry or in your vertical?'

CEBU, Philippines — Developing software is a tedious rinse-and-repeat process of research, design, coding, testing, and deployment, which can take months.

A tech company challenges that — by building over 60 apps in 30 days.

Symph, a software development consultancy in Cebu, shared its initiative called AI 30×30 during a press conference in IT Park in Cebu City on Thursday, May 18.

In AI 30×30, Symph employees were challenged to build 30 applications powered by artificial intelligence (AI) for the whole month in April. They have surpassed their goal and launched over 60.

Some of the apps presented during the launch include Travel Budol, an AI app that helps travelers create itineraries based on their chosen budget.

Another app, called AppGen, allows everyone — including those with no coding experience — to build their own AI apps within minutes.

The last app presented, Prompeteer, empowers users to create their own chatbots based on their specific needs.

Cebu software development consultancy Symph presents their AI initiative, called AI 30×30, at The Company, IT Park, in Cebu City on May 19, 2023.

“There’s a bit of an AI race. You can look at what OpenAI is doing. You can look at Google. You can look at Microsoft. And you can look at a lot of the open source initiatives. They’re all racing,” said Symph chief executive officer Dave Overton. 

“But we can bring attention to the latest technology in AI and show how this can revolutionize different industries. And obviously, I think in the Philippines, there are a lot of opportunities to use this more effectively,” he added. 

‘Democratize AI’

One of the goals of Symph in pursuing AI projects is to make AI more accessible to the public.

“I think one of the most interesting things in some of the apps was that we’re trying to democratize AI. One of the things that we’re trying to do is put the power in the hands of the people to say, okay, here are some interesting ways that you can use AI. How might you use this in your industry or in your vertical?” Overton said.

AI has been shown to make an impact on several industries and sectors.

In customer service, a thriving industry in the Philippines, a study reported that OpenAI’s GPT, the large language model on which ChatGPT is built, increased the average productivity among Philippine contact center agents by 13.8%.

Meanwhile, TV and film writers in the United States have been on strike since May 2, seeking to restrict the use of AI in writing scripts which threatens their jobs.

The World Health Organization also warned about the use of AI in healthcare, saying data used by AI to reach decisions could be biased or misused.

Similarly, journalists expressed concern about AI taking over their jobs and spreading disinformation at scale.

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“I remember when the internet and the World Wide Web came out, we didn’t know. It was definitely a wild, wild west. And we have that analogy that we think back to,” Overton said, pertaining to people adapting to the internet age.

“You have to be mindful of that no matter where you’re using AI. So, will the answers be perfect from the apps that we’ve produced here or from AI in general? No, not right now. They won’t. They won’t be comprehensive yet. Now, can you learn a lot from them? Yes,” he added.

“Like any tool, you should use it as a tool. It should be something that you’re learning and becoming familiar with as a tool.”

Overton also notes the unprecedented speed of the developments in AI and urges industries to invest in learning to use AI tools to their benefit.

“Honestly we were surprised by how fast AI’s iterations have been happening. How quickly it has been changing and the progress of development…. We need to pay attention to this. We need to invest in looking at this. And that’s why we came up with these initiatives [because] we want our team to dive into this,” he said.

“We wanted to foster an environment where we said, let’s learn about this. Let’s invest our time and our energy. Let’s figure out how we can use this,” he added.

Overton also addressed fears of AI taking over jobs, saying the public should respond to AI by diving into it. 

“As much as we would love it to not continue forward and for AI to not get better, it’s going to. It’s going to get better at programming. There will be a point where AI can out-program some of the best developers in the world. However, it’s not something that I think we can just sit around and wish that it wasn’t the way that it is,” Overton pointed out.

“I think we have to accept reality, and we have to shape a reality that we’re excited to live in…How can AI make us better developers, make us better creatives? Likewise, for businesses that are out there, or call center agents, how can AI actually help you do your job more effectively? How can it make your business better?…. I think the focus that I would put on AI right now is you should just dive in,” he added. —

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Christa Escudero

Christa Escudero is a digital communications specialist for Rappler.