Spotlight on Tech

“Data governance is the foundation of AI use", Rakuten Mobile CDO tells London conference

James Dartnell
Corporate Communications Director - Europe, Middle East and Africa
Rakuten Symphony
May 16, 2024
minute read

Rakuten Mobile’s Chief Data Officer Madhukiran Medithe discussed the importance of sound data governance as the most critical starting point for AI use during an on-stage interview at FutureNet World 2024. Medithe delved into the ways that data is a cornerstone in the telco-techco transition.

Sound data governance and compliance is essential if telcos are to take advantage of any AI-related opportunities, Rakuten Mobile’s Chief Data Officer has told a leading London telco conference.

Speaking in an on-stage interview at FutureNet World 2024 in London, Medithe told an expert audience how Rakuten Mobile has prioritised “cleaning” its data to ensure that the operator is able to accurately and responsibly deploy AI models. Moderator Chris Lewis of Lewis Insight quizzed Medithe on the ways that sound data use can form a cornerstone of a successful telco-techco transition.

“Rakuten started capturing data from day zero, and we’re reaping the benefits of that today,” Medithe said. “We have a huge amount of data from across our ecosystem. We know our subscribers, their usage patterns, the types of applications they are using, what services they're looking for, and how they are acting. We always see from the device perspective how the user is experiencing our network.”

“We need to be very careful in how we use data - governance and compliance are fundamental in its successful use.”
- Madhukiran Medithe, Chief Data Officer, Rakuten Mobile

Medithe went on to emphasise the criticality of responsible data usage. This, he said, was an absolute must before telcos can attempt any sort of AI initiatives. “We need to be very careful with how we use data,” he said. “Governance and compliance are fundamental in its successful use. Data cleaning and integration are a must because any changes you try to do in real-time or non real-time will also directly impact the customer experience. Today, whatever your modelling may be, compliance must be involved. Even though you take an open API or a third party application, when you go down to such a minute level of data - the subscriber location, address details and type of device - you should be very, very cautious about driving your governance and compliance. This is massive.”

Medithe also emphasised the importance of the data cleaning process. “Unifying data sources from different parts of the network is essential,” he said. “Data cleaning is the most difficult part, but it’s an absolute must. Data science is very niche in telecom because you're trying to capture the data at a millisecond rate. I would say 60-70% of my engineers’ time is spent on data cleaning. When you’re trying to stitch data from the RAN to the core, you need to do more from a governance perspective. With things like subscriber profiling, you need to be very careful and clear on how you’re trying to use the data.”

Medithe rounded off his interview by stressing the need for telcos to become platform companies, as opposed to seeing themselves as a traditional providers of services or utilities.

“Mobile network operators should not view themselves exclusively as service providers - they need to be platform providers. That starts with your data,” Medithe said. “What Rakuten Mobile has done is a massive achievement. Automation and AI are part of Rakuten Group’s DNA, and that has allowed Rakuten Mobile to be more than just a telecom operator - it's a platform for our wider ecosystem. From top to bottom, we try to deploy learnings from our data.”

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