The second of yesterday’s sessions at the V La Toja Forum was about the opportunities and risks of the use of data and artificial intelligence in the business world and among the speakers was the representative of the most important Galician company, Óscar García Maceiras, CEO Inditex.
The CEO of the textile multinational talked about the important changes the company has undergone thanks to technological advances since it opened its first Zara store in 1975 in central Juan Flores street in A Coruña.
Later, the flow of information was limited to a phone call at the end of the day in which the store manager reported how sales were. Today, the company founded by Amancio Ortega has centralized management of all its stores around the world, each of which provides its “6,000 CEOs” – store directors – with information and data to make decisions.
This fact is precisely what García Maceiras said: Inditex’s business model is always the “intensive use of technology” at the service of teams. That way they can deliver the company’s products in a way and place that suits the customer.
Coexistence between physical stores and e-commerce is essential. “A third of all online purchases made in the world, in our group, are collected in stores,” explained Maceiras, with a model that predates e-commerce development by providing operational and logistical support.
Regarding artificial intelligence, the CEO of Inditex considers that “it will have a positive role” and in that way the company works with internal and “external actors, from small startups to large companies like Google or Microsoft .” For Masieras, operating within an ethical framework and It’s about working with the intention of helping his teams: “Do things ‘intuitively’ so that something good doesn’t become a threat.”
Risks of AI
Alejandro Romero, co-founder of Constella Intelligence, was another speaker, and in his case tried to unravel the risks that not only companies, but all states are exposed to due to the important development of artificial intelligence and data technology.
“We should be aware that there is a sophisticated industry dedicated to data theft with the aim of extracting intellectual property or achieving political gain or influencing public opinion, for example, to influence electoral processes,” Romero explained.
With the development of artificial intelligence that can be developed, it is an industry that can advance at an unexpected pace. “There are already cases where the CEO’s voice has been impersonated to order the company’s CFO to raise funds,” Romero said, highlighting the development of this technology.
In this sense, Constella’s co-founder emphasized, “Geopolitics and economics will dominate the next ten years. “We have to be very careful about what China or Russia do in the cyber world,” he concluded.
The need to regulate
Pilar del Castillo, Vice President of the Popular Party in the European Parliament, was one of the speakers for the Data Act, an EU regulation on industrial data transactions.
He also participated in the discussion electronically as he was unable to travel to O’Gro, and he focused on the importance of finding a balance between the need to regulate with the already approved data law and regulation on AI. Still under negotiation – and not barring innovative developments.
“You have to be careful to combine the need for regulation with keeping the field open to continue innovation,” he explained.
For the MEP, it is very important to escape the protectionist narrative. “All regulation should focus on strengthening strategic autonomy, with the aim of increasing our companies’ ability to compete in a free market system,” he concluded.
The last speaker at the second table of the day was Chris Turner, vice president of technology giant Google and head of government affairs at the company.
In his speech, a senior Google executive pointed out that we need to remember that data and AI are “not a sector or an industry, but tools that can be used in absolutely all industries.”
Turner asked, “Which country is going to be the first to realize that it’s not about data or AI, but how it’s used to improve the economy and the lives of citizens?” In this sense, he pointed out that Spain could be the standard-bearer in Europe for the regulatory “harmonization” of data and AI.
Like Pilar del Castillo, he points out that it’s important to find a balance between risk and opportunity, but Turner points out that “the pieces and the pieces are available and there are departments that understand that need.” All that remains is a government willing to go in that direction and exploit it.
“We are talking about a tool that helps people and governments achieve their goals. “Who was the first to realize the need to protect themselves from bad guys and use it to pursue those goals?” he concluded.