10 JUNE 2019 - 20:03 MUDIWA GAVAZA
The report suggests that companies need to implement programmes to reskill their human capital for the changing business environment
The introduction and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in SA may be hampered by concerns around job losses but experts argue new prospects could be created by the same technology, says a new report by EY Africa.
“Currently, 54% of companies rate impact on personnel as the top business risk in implementing AI,” said the AI Maturity Study, which was commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by EY.
AI has to do with machines demonstrating intelligence normally displayed by humans such as learning and problem solving.
With SA’s official unemployment above 27%, fear of potential job losses has dominated discussion around AI in business.
“In a region where unemployment rates are high, the job market is highly unionised and true understanding of AI is low, employees have an inherent reservation towards scaled adoption of AI and significant amounts of education and change management will be required,” said the report, released on Monday.
To fight this “automation anxiety”, the report suggests that companies need to implement programmes to reskill their human capital for the changing business environment.
Microsoft SA’s managing director Lillian Barnard said: “I think we can take a cue from past major technological innovations like the invention of the telephone and the automobile.” There was a shift then and we should expect a shift now.
“It’s hard to predict what the future will bring. What we need is to focus our approach on providing the skills and training to ensure that we balance the equation. As much as we may perhaps lose jobs on one side, we can create new jobs on the other,” said Barnard.