AI fast becoming reality for corporate South Africa

Christopher Tredger
By Christopher Tredger, Portals editor
Johannesburg, 26 Apr 2024
Arthur Goldstuck, CEO, World Wide Worx.
Arthur Goldstuck, CEO, World Wide Worx.

While businesses in South Africa are still adapting to GenAI and it will take some time for this emerging tech to go mainstream, research shows that many companies have started their journey.

While the integration of GenAI technology is in its early stages within South African businesses, recent research indicates a growing number have embarked on this transformative journey. Although mainstream adoption may still be on the horizon, these initial steps signify a notable shift towards embracing the potential of artificial intelligence in the local business landscape

This is according to Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, who opened the inaugural ITWeb AI Summit 2024, hosted yesterday in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

Goldstuck referred to the SA Generative AI Roadmap 2024, a survey of IT decision-makers at 100 large enterprises in South Africa, conducted by World Wide Worx in association with Dell Technologies and Intel.

The survey found that 45% of respondents were not using GenAI, but plan to use it – indicative of a market that is willing to embrace the emerging technology.

Goldstuck said even if organisations simply experiment with the technology and ‘start small’, they should start.

"Corporate South Africa is only at the start of the journey and 53.3 percent only dabble with public services,” said Goldstuck.

The research found that chatbots, text/written content, and code generation are the top three types of tasks leveraging GenAI tools. In addition,  67% of respondents use the technology for product research, 54% for market research, and 53% for marketing content.

 “Generative AI is no longer a futuristic concept but a present-day reality that South African enterprises have firmly embraced as a catalyst for innovation and growth,” concluded  Goldstuck.

Conditions for success

Speakers at the AI summit highlighted the key pre-requisites for AI adoption to be successful, the first of which is is being able to answer the ‘why’ question with conviction. Then, there's the need to allocate budget, have solid data analysis skills, and a smooth change management process.

Rashika Ramlal, public sector country leader at Amazon Web Services (AWS) South Africa, said when decision makers consider what their AI strategy should be, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty because AI is the most transformational technology of our generation.

“The key strategies organisations are employing when they decide to take the leap is quite simple. An AI strategy is the same as any other business transformation strategy that is put in place. First, the organisation must determine what problem they are attempting to solve. Second, they determine a clear vision of their end goal, of how AI can solve that initial problem. Third build the business case and determine the expected ROI. Lastly develop and deploy the AI solutions,” said Ramlal.

“While AI is revolutionary, it is a new wave of innovation, it’s exciting and daunting but one must remember that it is just another technology used to solve whatever business challenges you have.”

There can be no doubt that AI is a powerful tool that will disrupt many industries going forward, experts agreed. To leverage this growth and integrate the technology into an organisation requires businesses to consider leadership engagement, cultural transformation, infrastructure and technology investment, measurement, and evaluation.