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GenAI to be embraced in 2024, despite scepticism

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 23 Jan 2024
Forrester predicts 60% of sceptics will use and love generative AI – whether they know it or not.
Forrester predicts 60% of sceptics will use and love generative AI – whether they know it or not.

Sixty percent of sceptics will use and love generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) – whether they know it or not.

This, as tech companies race to embed GenAI capabilities into the platforms, tools, apps and products that consumers use every day, says Forrester principal analyst Audrey Chee-Read.

Chee-Read was speaking during the webinar presentation of research firm Forrester’s 2024 Global Predictions, which look at the role AI and GenAI play in business operations.

AI took centre stage in 2023, with a wide range of tools, solutions and industries adopting the technology. The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022 brought to public attention the power of GenAI. Since then, Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing AI and Elon Musk's xAI have been launched.

Google Search has added Bard and ChatGPT functions, Spotify is using OpenAI’s technology to translate podcast episodes into other languages, and LinkedIn’s AI-generated content helps create posts for users, according to Forrester.

Last week, South Korean electronics giant Samsung unveiled Galaxy AI for its S24 smartphone series, which includes AI-powered features.

Providing insight into the predictions, Chee-Read noted that GenAI – specifically when ChatGPT made its debut over a year ago – saw a lot of scepticism.

“People were worried about how it was going to affect their jobs, what it meant for curiosity. Artists and creators were worried about what it meant for their work.”

As is the case with poorly understood technology that promises to change the world, Chee-Read said people tend to worry about the ethics and human impact.

The market research company’s analysis shows people question the morality behind GenAI. “The drawback is that there’s a huge potential for fraud… [GenAI] solutions have been described as tools that make people lazy and not have to think for themselves.

“At the same time, people also see it as a utility, noting it was designed to help do tasks more efficiently and is a must-have to make life easier.

“Underlying a lot of this is the idea of trust and it will remain an issue, especially this year when there are big events like the US presidential elections or the Paris Summer Olympics that are going to open up opportunities for bad actors.”

Based on consumer sentiment, 45% of those surveyed believe GenAI will cause a serious threat to society, while 75% think companies should disclose when they are using GenAI when interacting with them, and 31% say they would trust information provided by GenAI, Chee-Read stated.

“Trust issues aren’t just about the morality or ethics of what generative AI does, but how good the output of what the tool produces. For example, it’s not only consumers that are sceptical about the technology, but pop culture actors and writers as well.

“For first-time users, they are shying away from more frequent usage because they don’t think the generative AI tool can do what they want it to do. For companies and brands, this signals that they don’t have too many opportunities to really get it right. Nonetheless, consumers are still using it.”

Awareness of GenAI has stabilised over the last few months, but adoption is still slowly increasing across different countries.

Consumers said they find it to be more useful in task-oriented things, like finding an answer or drafting and creating something. “There is still a little caution, hesitation and scepticism in more complicated pro-active tasks.

“However, generative AI has put AI on the map for consumers; it’s the consumer-facing AI tool and it’s helping them understand how to use AI.”

Stimulating creativity

According to the Forrester report, enterprise AI initiatives will boost productivity and creative problem-solving by 50%.

In addition, generative AI is set to increase productivity across IT operations, with current projects already citing improvements of up to 40% in software development tasks.

“Visionary tech execs will seize this opportunity to strategically realign IT resources to unlock the immense creative potential within their teams − not just among developers but across all IT roles.

“They will leverage this AI moment to create an environment that promotes innovation, interdisciplinary teamwork, continuous learning and alignment with the broader business strategy.

“This shift in focus will free up to 50% more time for employees to engage in creative problem-solving, driving customer-centric innovation and creating unprecedented business value. Businesses will benefit as their tech teams provide products and services that deliver better, more innovative customer experiences.”

CEOs must heed the call

Forrester highlights that GenAI has the potential to be the “greatest technological advancement” since the internet, with CEO George Colony advising CEOs to make it a priority, as it’s not the time to “wait and see” how this technology shapes out.

“This is a revolution…it is a very big change, much bigger than the internet itself.”

By the end of 2024, companies should have at least 10 ongoing generative AI projects, said Colony, noting these can be small.

“The IQ of your company around GenAI should rise for everyone because AI is going to touch all of us. The IQ of your executive team, CEO and board of directors should also increase.”

Similarly, PwC’s 27th Annual Global CEO Survey shows executives are optimistic about GenAI’s short-term impact.

The report indicates that over the next 12 months, 58% of surveyed CEOs expect it to improve the quality of their products or services, and 48% say it will enhance their ability to build trust with stakeholders.