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In collaboration for a report detailing the societal benefits of Artificial Intelligence in South Africa, the Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft South Africa including Wits Business School have penned a report detailing how generative AI is maturing rapidly and on track to become one of the most transformative technologies of our time.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Nihmal Marrie, Managing Director and Partner at BCG said that given South Africa’s distinctive set of challenges, the benefits of AI, and especially Generative AI will be felt strongly across four key sectors namely healthcare, education, financial inclusion, and agriculture.
The report examines cases in the country to identify a number of ways in which AI could make a transformative contribution to easing societal challenges.
The health sector was pinned as a sector that most likely will transform in several ways.
The health sector
In regards to the health sector, AI can include freeing up administrative time for doctors and nurses by transcribing and summarizing consultations and updating patient files automatically.
Servicing as a 24/7 medical resource center and assisting with disseminating alerts and regular advice in many different languages means consumers benefit on a first-hand basis.
The groundbreaking report unpacks the transformative potential of AI, generative AI which is set to become an impactful force in this industrial revolution.
The education sector stands to benefit significantly as AI-driven tutors equipped with natural language processing can provide learners with better access to educational resources, help bridge teacher shortages, and help expand the financial plan for the educational sector, especially in public schools.
AI also promises to expand financial inclusion, making financial services more accessible through conversational chatbots while expediting legal document drafting.
While South Africa faces significant challenges as a direct result of climate change, the use of sensors, drones, and satellite tech by farmers could aid in obtaining real-time data on crops while enabling AI algorithms to optimize planting times in order to maximize yields.
Marrie cautions however that AI offers numerous upshots but risks must always be factored.
Ayanda Ngcebetsha, Director of Data and AI Commercial Solutions at Microsoft South Africa, stressed the importance of responsible AI usage.
“Creating world-changing technologies comes with the responsibility to ensure ethical and transparent usage, safeguarding data and compliance,” Ngcebetsha stated.
To harness AI’s potential for the nation’s benefit, policymakers and stakeholders must work together to mitigate risks and establish a framework for responsible AI practices. This includes financial and regulatory support, upgrading technology infrastructure, and fostering public-private partnerships.
Marrie concludes, “AI presents South Africa with an unprecedented opportunity to address historical inequalities and collaborative action is imperative to unlock these opportunities while also carefully navigating potential challenges.”
In a world where AI is poised to reshape societies, South Africa stands on the cusp of a transformative era, leveraging technology to tackle its most pressing issues and build a colourful future for all its citizens.