November 26, 2020

How Can AI Support Small Businesses During The Pandemic?

How AI can support small businesses and self-employed individuals during the pandemic? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. 

Answer by Ashok Srivastava, Chief Data Officer at Intuit, in his session: 

As the COVID-19 pandemic plays out around the world, consumers, small businesses, self-employed workers and accountants face unprecedented challenges, and these challenges only continue to grow. Many people are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families. They might be facing a loss of income, a lack of adequate savings to weather the storm or poor access to health care. With shelter-in-place mandates proliferating around the world, small businesses have had to close their doors and are running out of cash to pay their employees and their bills. We expect that COVID-19 has left monumental changes on how we will live our lives and conduct our businesses.

This includes an abrupt digital transformation in how we work and transact in our world, shifting all aspects of our lives to one that embraces a more virtual environment. Technology like predictive intelligence can be incredibly helpful during these times, since small businesses and self-employed individuals can do forecasting and scenario planning, running through a variety of options using data to make a more informed decision on their next step. One could even imagine a world where third-party data about health trends or climate change patterns could help small businesses plan for various crises and improve their resilience.

In other instances, AI can be used to help navigate complex scenarios, such as the recent CARES Act for example. Using knowledge engineering, our team built a free tool called the Intuit Aid Assist, which navigates the complexity of the CARES Act to deliver a personalized recommendation on what benefits a person is eligible for. AI-driven recommendation systems can also be helpful during this time.

Although the field of AI is being dominated by techniques such as deep learning, we are finding that blending knowledge engineering with machine learning and natural language processing is becoming more crucial to delivering personalized recommendations in our domain.

Using data-backed personalized recommendations, small businesses can get access to resources that best serve their unique needs during this time, whether it’s financial planners who understand their state’s legislature to securing a microloan to make it through the next three months. AI can power all of this, and be a great resource during this time of need.

As we all adjust to our new normal, the pandemic has acted as an accelerant to several macro-trends, including small businesses needing to shift to a virtual world and increase their online presence. This includes using AI to understand how to optimize their business performance and manage their inventory. In addition, as the world embraces more virtual experiences, data-driven security practices become more paramount. Machine learning anomaly detection, fraud detection and risk mitigation are key to having a secured platform.

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