AI and EQ: how the human-machine interface will make SA a better place

BCX releases its ‘Preparing for Industry 4.0’ white paper

17 September 2020 - 09:03 By Vish Rajpal
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BCX has just released its 'Preparing for Industry 4.0' white paper.
BCX has just released its 'Preparing for Industry 4.0' white paper.
Image: Unsplash/Ramon Salinero

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation during and post the Covid-19 pandemic will take the best traits of both humans and machines to create an augmented, enhanced workforce that will grow business, the economy and take society on a journey to an ever-evolving new normal.

The speed, efficiency and accuracy that digitisation brings, requires human empathy, creativity and problem-solving to make it a complete solution to the needs of a changed world that can, and will, never be the same again.

We keep speaking of how Covid-19 has forced a necessary acceleration of the digitisation of SA, and the impact of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on businesses in our country. Now, we need to integrate and implement these technologies to ensure we are prepared for the opportunities and challenges 4IR and automation will bring.

The importance of this cannot be understated, which is why we at BCX have just released its “Preparing for Industry 4.0” white paper. It is as necessary to understand the different industrial revolutions and seeing where we have come from, as it is keeping up with the exponential speed at which technology is developing.

The challenge of 4IR for SA is that it comes at a time when many organisations are still struggling to come to terms with the challenges of the third revolution, the age of the computer. Brainstorm’s CIO Survey 2019 found that just 6% of SA organisations believed their digital maturity was “fully mature”. And while 38% described themselves as “advanced”, 54% said their digital capabilities were “basic”. 

AI is already a part of daily life for many, from music apps to Siri and Alexa. The IDC predicts the spend on AI systems will reach $98bn by 2023, up from the $38bn spent last year. About 46% of SA companies are piloting AI, with two thirds of them identifying machine learning as the technology that will be the most beneficial, followed by robotics and biometrics.

The key to return on investment from AI lies not only in using it to automate business processes, but in channelling it to help humans reach their full potential
BCX white paper

AI solutions for big data analysis has proved to be vital in other countries in the fight against the virus. In India, a company called IndustryAI used AI and smart technologies to allow factories to open by ensuring the safety of their workers.

They use cameras, cellphones and algorithms to check when social distancing or PPE rules are broken, and also allow companies to track and tracing of their employees if needed. This brings peace of mind to the workforce.

AI is being used to help commuters on public transport. The World Economic Forum recently published a report that spoke of how AI crunched huge amounts of data to allow bus operators to put on extra buses, as well as check demographic data, such as income levels, to ensure poorer areas got more vehicles.

The uses and advantages of AI are many and seemingly endless. It is used for predictive maintenance, yield optimisation and quality testing during manufacturing and supply chain management. It is helping marketers understand their customers better and improve the quality of their interactions, information security, fraud detection and risk analysis. 

It is understandable that some have concerns about AI, particularly with employees in the workforce. One of our findings is that the “key to return on investment from AI lies not only in using it to automate business processes, but in channelling it to help humans reach their full potential”. Some jobs will change and fall away, but they will be replaced by new careers as employees are reskilled and upskilled. As with each revolution, there is change, but also, as with each revolution, the human element is key to making it all work and function better. 

We are in a time when we need to care for each other more than ever, across all spheres of society. AI plays a huge role in allowing us to work from home and self-isolate. It is vital too for the medical fraternity in analysing data on the where, when and frequency of infections. We interact with AI when we shop, bank, invest and seek advice. AI needs the empathy, creativity and solution-solving abilities of humans to bring the best of it out, and the best out of them, so we can ensure SA is a part of the 4IR and not a bystander.

About the author: Vish Rajpal is chief of ICT at BCX.

This article was paid for by BCX.