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Slow AI adoption: How businesses can accelerate the uptake of AI (no, the answers in not more tech)

9 minute read


Advancing connectivity to accelerate the digital future

Advance means that Telenor is at the forefront of technological development, constantly innovating and exploring for the benefit of customers, businesses and society.

AI can play a pivotal part in shaping society for the better in the next five years, stresses Ieva Martinkenaite, urging more industries and businesses to open their eyes to arenas like the Norwegian Open AI Lab.

When faced with the question, “Do you believe our society is utilising the full potential of AI?” Ieva Martinkenaite, one of Europe’s leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) advocates, wishes she could answer differently.

“But the truth is, no. A big no. Although the use of AI varies across problem domains, industries, and continents, there is an overarching issue in lack of AI adoption,” she says.

It’s easy to understand the new Head of Telenor Research and Innovation’s desire for a global acceleration in the AI uptake when hearing her speak about the technology’s potential impact on society.

“AI is a set of technologies that can help humans perform specific tasks, such as recognising objects from a myriad of pictures. This can, for instance, be used to detect cancer cells from X-rays instantly. For businesses, AI can improve customer offers, reduce costs, and create new revenue streams. The AI technology is already there. What’s lacking is an overarching understanding among leaders and businesses of what AI actually can do.”

Also read: Ieva Martinkenaite named new head of Telenor Research and Innovation

Sigve Brekke in dialogue with people at NAIL
Problem solver: Ieva Martinkenaite (right) believes AI is set to solve fundamental challenges related to health and climate. Here together with (from left) Inga Strümke, researcher at the Norwegian Open AI Lab, Sigve Brekke, CEO and President of Telenor Group, and Terje Thorsen, EVP Technologies and Services of DNB, celebrating NAIL’s 5-year anniversary at the lab facilities on NTNU’s campus in Trondheim.

Need for a culture shift

Although acknowledging that culture shifts are difficult, Martinkenaite stresses that they are needed to pave the way for more AI experimentation in businesses.

“A culture shift is hard because it touches on legacies and people’s ability to change. But it’s vital to capture value from new technologies and data. As businesses and industries, we need to focus on developing new skills and engage with peers and partners in arenas where we share and disseminate knowledge, like the Norwegian Open AI Lab,” she says.

Telenor, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and SINTEF established the Norwegian Open AI Lab (NAIL) in 2017. The lab, which is located at NTNU’s campus in Trondheim, Norway, is a platform for cooperation on AI between Norwegian public and private companies, the government, and academia.

Read more: Knowledge powerhouse aims to stimulate green and profitable transformation

Sigve Brekke, President and CEO of Telenor Group, says Telenor joined NAIL as a funding partner to actively contribute to developing critical digital competencies.

“AI represents a massive potential for improving lives and businesses for our customers and Telenor's own business. We expect the impact of AI to accelerate with the increasing digitalisation of society and play a crucial role in combatting climate change,” says Brekke, fully backing Martinkenaite’s call for more skill development and partner focus.

“To capture value from AI, companies need talents, software, and an experimentation culture that would enable them to systematically transform data into actionable insights, predictions, and choices, guiding better business decisions and automating processes.”

A description that, in many ways, explains what NAIL has set out to provide its partners.

Check out: Did you know that Telenor uses AI to green mobile networks

Sigve in debate
Partners: NAIL has a total of 14 partners spanning across different industries, start-ups, and academia. As part of the 5-years anniversary celebration, Sigve Brekke, President and CEO of Telenor Group, discussed AI adoption with other industries, here in dialogue with Elisabeth Birkeland Kvalheim, EVP Technology, Digital and Innovation, Equinor, Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO of DNV, and Ståle Gjersvold, CEO of TrønderEnergi.

Access to the brightest minds

“At NAIL, we work with partners that have data and problems they want to solve. This provides the partners with opportunities to solve challenges by tapping into NAIL’s resources, while we at NAIL build research on the work we do with the partners to develop our methods further,” explains Ingrid Schjølberg, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at NTNU.

Through Telenor’s research and development activities in NAIL, Telenor has been able to dive into real and complex operational issues and challenges.

“We are currently running large research projects on automatic speech recognition and detection of anomalous traffic in Radio Access Network (RAN). Given the fast pace of AI tech advancements, we are very happy to get help from the brightest minds at NTNU. This would not have been possible without investing our time, people, data, and problems in NAIL,” explains Martinkenaite, who looks forward to the next chapter of the lab’s story.

“The first five years have been very exciting, and we have learned how to work with research partners on AI and bring value to our business. I believe the next five will bring even more cutting-edge knowledge and utilisation through high-impact research-industry collaborations for Telenor.”

Learn more: By using AI, Telenor and partners help solve one of the globe’s ‘dirtiest’ health issues

Sigve Brekke and Anne Borg look at screen while Sara Malacarne presents.
Connecting with students: NAIL partners get to connect with the lab’s AI researchers and NTNU students and discuss AI related challenges and opportunities with other partners from the private and public sectors. Sara Malacarne, Senior Research Scientist in Telenor Research and Innovation, presents to Anne Borg, Rector at NTNU, and Sigve Brekke, President and CEO of Telenor Group, how her project group has used AI to detect faults in Telenor’s Radio Access Network.

About NAIL:

The Norwegian Open Artificial Intelligence Lab (NAIL) is a hub for research, education, and innovation within AI that aims to solve challenges of high importance to the Norwegian society. NAIL engages in a variety of research and innovation activities, with several ongoing projects and a strong team of AI researchers. Telenor is a funding partner of NAIL, which as of 2022, consists of 14 partners from business, industry, research, and the public sector, including large industry players such as Equinor, DnB, DNV, and Kongsberg. Partners bring data, real-life problems, and domain knowledge to NAIL.

About Telenor Research and Innovation:

For more than 50 years, Telenor has invested in a dedicated research area to help the company prepare for and leverage emerging technologies, as well as customer, organisational and regulatory trends. Telenor Research and Innovation consists of a team of experts who take a science-based approach to solving some of the most intricate problems facing telecommunications today – providing insight and guidance to top management for more informed decision-making.