No Code AI, No Kidding Aye!
When was the last time you did something meaningful for the first time? For me, that was in the last week of June’21. Just two weeks into my stint at Subex, I made an ML prediction model, my first one! Yes, I know that is nothing earth-shattering, but before you start rolling your eyes at my juvenile glee and start judging, let me tell you that I do not know how to code. I cannot code to save my life and the last time I wrote something that had a semblance of a code was two decades back when I was in graduate college. So, yes, I am elated; not in the least because I made a very simple ML model, but because of the feeling of freedom and empowerment that I felt when I saw each one of my process steps in the pipeline lighting up in green and running its full course and culminating in successful output. In my mind, it is the kind of emotion one goes through when you have been handicapped for a lifetime, and then, one fine day, you get a bionic limb that liberates you and lets you walk freely once again.
The future potential of No Code/Low Code platforms
Gartner’s research points to the emerging trend that digital transformation initiatives have triggered an insatiable demand for custom software development. This, in turn, has ignited the emergence of citizen developers and citizen data scientists who are outside the traditional definitions of an IT developer or an ML developer. This paradigm shift has influenced the rise of no-code and low-code platforms. According to Gartner, on average, 41% of employees outside of IT – or ‘business technologists’ – customize or build data or technology solutions, and they are sticking their neck out confidently to say that that, by the end of 2025, 50% of all new low-code clients will come from business buyers that are outside the IT organization and 65% of all application development will be low code by 2024.
Enough of numbers for now. I guess we all get the drift – Low code/No code development platforms are the next big thing in software development. So, is this another technological development whose impact will stay limited to large, for-profit corporations and enterprises, or, will this have a greater, more purposeful bearing?
The profound impact of No Code platforms
In 2005, the Indian parliament passed a historic and landmark bill – The Right To Information Act, or RTI, as it is popularly known. This Act took the key that was needed to access data related to most of the day-to-day functioning of government bodies, from the hands of limited law enforcement and judiciary entities and passed it into the hands of the common man. Suddenly, everything changed. The fundamental societal framework that government functionaries could do whatever they wanted and get away with it unless someone with a lot of time, money, patience, courage, and determination could force the hands of the law using judicial process, was turned on its head. Anybody who was a citizen of India could pay a paltry sum and demand specific information from almost any government entity and was entitled to get that information. It was a true watershed moment for the democratic fabric of this great nation. It made governance more responsible and accountable, and it paved the way for numerous improvements and transparency at the grassroots level, and that, in the true sense, was a transformation. In case you are wondering how this is related to No Code AI platforms, hold on just a little bit more.
It was never the case that prior to the RTI Act getting passed, there was no data. Oceans of data existed, but what did not exist was a framework and structure in which that data could be leveraged by every citizen. Until then, data could only be sought and used by limited entities and institutions – legislature, law enforcement, and judiciary and often, they only sought and used data for purposes of utmost legal importance and priority. Compare that to the situation we have at hand in the private and business sector. Humungous amounts of data exist, but how can you leverage the true potential of it if the value extraction power is in the hands of a few limited people who need to have highly advanced, technical skills? Creativity and the power of imagination are not always ensconced inside technical or programming knowledge. There are so many business users who have fantastic ideas which never see the light of the day, either because it is not considered a priority, or simply because there’s just not enough bandwidth of expensive technical resources to spare to chase up every idea that is being tabled. In most cases, the process of innovation in organizations works like the highly competitive entrance examinations to prestigious colleges – it is a process of eliminating as many as possible, rather than retaining everyone who might have potential.
With RTI, anybody who wanted to check a hypothesis could ask for relevant data and had the right to receive that data within a stipulated timeframe. Suddenly, corruption became one step more arduous as the usage of data became truly democratized. NGOs and committed citizens who wanted to make real fundamental changes started gathering and foraging through data to identify patterns and anomalies and started asking questions, most of which were uncomfortable ones to answer but had the power to alter the basic fabric of the system.
AI has the power to change the way we eat, sleep, breathe and live. In business, it has the potential to transform fortunes and deliver exceptional customer experiences at scale, but the question we need to ask is – Given a choice, do we want to restrict and throttle this power, due to natural limitations, within the hands of a few people who need to have highly technical and specialized skills to know how to fully leverage it? Imagine the possibilities of this power in the hands of millions of creative and logical people who can dream up out-of-the-world applications for the data assets that we sit on without everybody having to be a software programmer or a technical data scientist. That would be true democratization of data and AI, and No-Code platforms are paving the way for this revolution.
Note: This blog post is part one of a two-part series on the No-Code AI platform revolution. The next part will cover the challenges of the AI model building that No-Code AI platforms address.
Till then, stay tuned…