By Wale Akanbi Chief Technical Officer, Aella Credit
The field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is advancing rapidly and the adoption of these technologies across industries in recent years has steadily risen. Unfortunately, the potential of these tools to improve people’s lives and address some of the world’s biggest challenges are barely spoken about across mass media and by the companies utilizing these technologies.
Beyond this, AI adoption faces some cultural and organizational barriers, but we have seen companies that have taken steps to break down those barriers and effectively capture and leverage AI opportunities. In building an AI-powered organization, people at all levels must feel empowered, and that means abandoning the traditional top-down approach.
Financial institutions handle massive amounts of data constantly, often leading to inefficiency, high costs and less-than-stellar services in the absence of technological innovation. This is why it is critical that financial institutions adopt the use of AI/ML across every possible facet of their operations. At Aella Credit, we are constantly exploring ways we can harness AI/ML to improve people’s lives.
AI has the biggest impact when it’s developed by cross-functional teams with a mix of skills and perspectives. It is therefore important that every member of an organization — engineers, data scientists, user interface designers — work together to establish the company’s core AI capabilities and utilize it effectively.
In Africa, artificial intelligence and machine learning have the capability to solve verification challenges, eradicate crime and help provide credit to the underbanked and unbanked. Access to credit, especially, has been a challenge the banks and most financial institutions have not been able to address. This is where we’re making great strides.
At Aella Credit, we are taking advantage of cutting-edge, deep-learning and AI technologies to address identity verification challenges and provide ML-driven risk assessment via both B2B integration with employers and B2C models using mobile data. Our mission is to provide credit in emerging markets utilizing the full potential of AI/ML.
In exploring different solutions for our market, we realised there was a dearth of facial recognition infrastructure, peculiar to our market. Thankfully, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is helping us fix this challenge. We are now able to identify and verify customers using the Amazon Rekognition technology and properly run credit risk assessments on individuals, thereby enabling us to provide credit for a wide range of users. We are actively working towards making lending easier for businesses using AI.
AI/ML Data Privacy
It is pertinent to note that while AI/ML technologies offer a wealth of opportunities, it also creates an avenue for never-before-seen threats. As a result of this, there is data governance guiding principles for embracing AI and ML technologies. At Aella Credit, we have a closed system that actively protects our customer data, and acquired data is used for credit rating purposes only. Beyond this, we are exploring blockchain technology to more accurately keep information anonymous.
Closing the SkillSet Gap & Embracing AI/ML
As with every industry embracing technological applications, talent is key, and there is a noticeable skills gap which tends to hold back the adoption of AI/ML. When we started operations at Aella Credit, the skillset gap was clear. But after investing in upskilling, it didn’t take much time for our team to catch up. They embraced the challenge, took the necessary courses and gained the knowledge needed to thrive. Now, more than ever before, the team is always ready to proffer ways to solve challenges more efficiently using AI/ML technology.
The ways AI/ML can be used to increase decision-making and overall efficiency in businesses keep expanding. Adopting cutting edge-technologies will generate basic and sometimes hard modifications in workflows, roles, and culture that will require leaders to closely shepherd their organisations.
In a globe where humans and machines working together outperform either humans or machines operating on their own, companies that can adequately apply AI/ML in their operations will discover themselves at a huge benefit. However, it is critical for businesses/companies to solve the right problem while exploring AI/ML in their operations. For us, credit was the issue we wanted to fix, but we realized we needed to fix the identity problem first. After which, we moved on to address other problems that we encountered.
Our overarching plan is to prevent a digital lending crisis in emerging markets through a tier-based lending system that creates micro merchants from its current borrowers. We believe that access to credit is a fundamental human right and we envision a world where affordable credit pricing is accessible at all income levels.