ITWeb AI Summit: Tech leaders emphasise agility, experimentation in AI adoption

This discussion highlighted the need for businesses to prioritise agility and adaptability when integrating AI technology.

Johannesburg, 08 May 2024
Rashika Ramlal, Public Sector Country Lead, South Africa at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Rashika Ramlal, Public Sector Country Lead, South Africa at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to disrupt industries across the board, large enterprises are advised to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and foster a culture of experimentation to benefit from transformative technology.

This is according to industry experts who gathered at the 2024 ITWeb AI Summit in Johannesburg on 25 April.

In a panel discussion, experts discussed the issue of organisational readiness for AI adoption.

Ernest North, co-founder of Naked Insurance, said there is a need for businesses to prioritise agility and adaptability when it comes to AI adoption.

"We're driven by a technology-first approach to insurance. Our agility stems from our commitment to embrace innovations like AI swiftly and effectively. We've structured our operations to be highly adaptable, allowing us to integrate new technologies quickly and stay ahead of the curve," explained North.

Rashika Ramlal, Public Sector Country Lead, South Africa at Amazon Web Services (AWS), emphasised the importance for established enterprises to instil a culture of AI adoption, with strong executive sponsorship and clear change management to help employees understand the benefits of AI.

Ramlal said organisations should take a disciplined, use-case driven approach to AI, starting with high-impact pilot projects to demonstrate early value, then scaling those initiatives systematically across the business. She doubled down on the importance of starting small when adopting new tech through proofs of concept (POCs) and targeting high-value opportunities to demonstrate the value of AI.

According to Ramlal, AWS is improving customers’ lives with practical, useful generative AI innovations. AWS's generative AI strategy is focused on three technology layers.

“At the bottom layer we offer our own high performance and cost-effective custom chips, as well as a variety of other computing options including from third-parties,” said Ramlal. “At the middle layer, we offer customers choice by providing the broadest selection of Foundation Models – both Amazon-built as well as those from other leading providers. At the top layer we offer generative AI applications and services to improve every customer experience.”

Ramlal said there are three things that distinguish AWS’s approach to the development and deployment of AI:

  1. Maintaining a strategic focus on improving the customer and employee experience through practical, real-world applications of AI.
  2. Marshalling AWS's world-class data, compute and talent resources to drive AI innovation.
  3. Committing to the development of responsible, reliable and trustworthy AI.

"Experimenting with high-value systems or scenarios can actually show the value of AI technology. Enterprises need to take immediate action in terms of adopting that entrepreneurial mindset and making sure they start experimenting with new tech,” she advised.

The entrepreneurial mindset, according to the experts, not only fosters innovation, but also helps companies navigate the rapid pace of technological change.

"It's not just about what is AI today, we have to be set up and be running our businesses in a way that we're ready to be at the forefront of whatever those new things come along,” said North.

Ramlal also stressed the importance of collaboration and upskilling for successful AI adoption. "Few organisations have all the skills, so partnering with people that do have the skills is important on your journey.”

Ramlal outlined how AWS is helping enterprises adopt AI technology through its upskilling efforts. The company has a free skills training programme called AI Ready. The course features eight free GenAI courses. The company offers GenAI scholarships for high school and university students, as well as an online skills centre and a skills centre in Cape Town.

“Through our AI Ready programme, we're empowering enterprises to embrace AI technology and drive innovation. Additionally, our GenAI scholarships provide opportunities for high school and university students to dive deep into AI education. With online skills centres and physical hubs like the one in Cape Town, we're committed to fostering AI talent globally," concluded Ramlal.