AI to drive global GDP gains of $15.7tn

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Alistair Hofert, intelligent automation lead for PwC SA.
Alistair Hofert, intelligent automation lead for PwC SA.

Implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives in businesses will contribute around $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

This is according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report titled: "AI Impact Index." The report found the global gross domestic product (GDP) will be 14% higher by 2030, as a result of productivity driven by AI initiatives used by organisations around the world - more than the current output of China and India combined.

The report draws on input from sector experts and partners at Fraunhofer, a global leader in emerging technology research and development.

This growth rate, according to PwC, makes AI the biggest commercial opportunity in today's fast changing economy. All regions of the global economy will experience benefits from AI, including North America, China, Europe and developed Asia. However, developing countries will experience more modest increases (less than 6% of GDP) due the much lower rates of adoption of AI technologies expected (including Latin America, and Africa).

Alistair Hofert, intelligent automation lead for PwC SA, says: "The report highlights how AI can enhance and augment what enterprises can do, the value potential of which is as large, if not larger, than automation. It shows just how a big game changer AI is likely to be and the impact it will have on our lives as organisations, individuals and society as a whole. AI is set to be the key source of transformation, disruption and competitive advantage in today's fast-changing economy. No industry or business is immune from the impact of AI."

Overall, the report further reveals the biggest absolute sector gains will be in retail, financial services, and healthcare as AI increases productivity, product value and consumption.

Providing a local perspective, Rishal Hurbans, solutions architect at software solutions company Entelect, says in SA certain industries such as the banking and retail industries are experimenting with AI, with mixed success.

"South African organisations have yet to fully embrace AI, they're using chatbots to quickly and efficiently respond to customers but chatbots are flawed because they don't understand sarcasm or depth of sentiment and can only respond to limited questions. We're still in the experimental stages and organisations should resist the temptation to implement AI for the sake of following a buzzword or craze because this could result in wasted time and investment. It's important to have a use case and execution strategy within the business before investing time and resources," he explains.

One reason why narrow AI is becoming more prominent within local businesses, Hurbans continues, is that computing power and data have made it feasible to experiment with AI - with the goal of making money, saving money and uncovering business opportunity.

However, he points out there are two big challenges in leveraging AI techniques in local businesses.

"The first challenge is the availability of skilled people with knowledge in the area and the second challenge is the ability of making sense of data within the organisation. This will change as more people work with the techniques and technologies.

"Data is the heart of AI and having a lot of it will not necessarily directly result in a good AI implementation. An organisation needs to consolidate its data, make sense of it, and organise it in a way that is suited for AI and machine learning algorithms. Furthermore, the data needs to be prepared with a purpose towards a specific goal. With flawed representations of data for a specific context, any AI implementation will be inaccurate and problematic," concludes Hurbans.

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