Google study shows spike in South Africans’ interest in AI

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 18 Jan 2024
91% of South Africans think that life with AI will look different five years from now.
91% of South Africans think that life with AI will look different five years from now.

South Africans’ interest in artificial intelligence (AI) increased by 370% over the last year, and 650% over the last five years.

In addition, 91% of South Africans think that life with AI will look different five years from now, according to insights released by search engine giant Google.

Top searched questions included “what is artificial intelligence” and “how to use AI”, while searches for “what is the current situation of AI” and “what is generative AI” increased by over 5 000%, says Google.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos late last year on behalf of Google, samples roughly 1 000 adults (18+) representative of the online population of each in Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Google, respondents from South Africa reported that AI was already having an impact on the way they access information (81%), learn (78%) and work (72%).

On the other hand, 60% of South African respondents said they were excited about the possibilities of AI.

Asked where AI is most likely to have a positive impact in the next five years, South African respondents said the accuracy of medical diagnoses and the effectiveness of the school curriculum (both 73%).

Some 82% felt AI will have a positive impact on their ability to understand complex topics, while 79% think it will benefit the way they learn.

South Africans felt that AI would benefit society as a whole (76%) and people like them (69%). In addition, 63% felt that South Africa will be able to harness the potential of AI over the next five years.

Some 95% felt that AI will change most jobs and industries over the next five years, while 83% predicted that it will change the economy.

Matt Brittin, president of Google Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says: “It’s great to see people in South Africa showing such a keen interest in the potential of AI as a transformative technology. People across the world are benefitting from responsibly developed AI tools every day – but it’s important that we get this right.”

When asked which institutions they have confidence in to oversee the development of AI in the best interests of the public, South Africa favoured technology companies (90%) and academic institutions (85%) over the government (50%) and armed forces (61%).

Their preferred approach was collaborative: 91% of respondents felt that the government and technology companies should work together to educate students and workers about AI, while 88% wanted the same collaboration to ensure everyone is able to benefit from AI advancements. Only 34% felt the use and development of AI should be completely paused.