Artificial intelligence (AI) took centre stage in 2023, with a wide range of tools, solutions and industries adopting the technology. With 2024 around the corner, experts predict AI is going to become more powerful and accessible to everyone.
Generative AI (GenAI)-which enables the use of AI to generate texts, images and code-made headlines throughout 2023. Tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT pushed the boundaries of creativity and sparked conversations about the potential and limitations of this technology.
Merelda Wu, CEO of Melio Consulting, highlights the significant consumer adoption of GenAI technologies like ChatGPT this year, and emphasises the shift towards companies exploring ways the technology can enhance customer experience.
This year also witnessed a race for AI domination among big tech companies, such as Microsoft and Google. In addition, there was Microsoft’s big investment in AI with OpenAI, Google’s highly-anticipated Gemini AI tool and the OpenAI CEO Sam Altman firing and re-hiring incident.
Johan Steyn, founder of AI for Business, said: “With Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI and seeing how Microsoft has started to bring the OpenAI technology into the Office 365 platform, and also the release of Copilot, although it’s still fairly limited, the battle between Google or Alphabet and Microsoft on the AI front has been significant.”
Looking ahead, Microsoft South Africa MD Kalane Rampai says potential AI regulations will prioritise safety, security and inclusivity without hindering technological advancements.
“When we create technology, we create it to solve human problems. So, even when we talk about regulatory frameworks that will come into play, I don’t see these becoming hindrances,” comments Rampai.
Experts predict a surge in AI adoption across the African continent in 2024, driven by increasing smartphone penetration and a dedicated focus on supporting local languages.
They also expect a substantial shift in AI adoption across diverse sectors, such as finance, agriculture, mining, healthcare and education. For example, in SA, the financial services sector is recognised for its rapid adoption of new technology, fuelled by ample funding, they note.
According to Wu, there will be an uptick in AI adoption within the retail and consumer space. The relative ease of experimentation and lower regulatory constraints in these sectors allow for swift advancements, she adds. There will also be increased adoption in the manufacturing sector.
As SA’s AI landscape continues to evolve, the experts say a closer examination of specific sectors − such as healthcare − reveals promising opportunities for increased AI adoption and innovation. This includes automation of hospital processes to grant healthcare workers more time to provide direct medical assistance, addressing the urgent need for enhanced efficiency.
Additionally, Rampai highlights that cyber security is another crucial domain for AI integration. “There’s clearly a need for the security industry to adopt AI to deal with the vast amounts of data that comes out of things like security cameras.”
Overall, the experts foresee a transformative year ahead for AI, marked by widespread adoption, heightened innovation, regulatory advancements and less scepticism.
Steyn anticipates significant progress in the development of AI models tailored for Africa by Africans. This includes large language models capable of translating African languages, and AI tools designed to address the specific needs of the African population. Steyn also envisions AI playing a substantial role in the upcoming South African elections.
Microsoft’s Rampai sees 2024 as a pivotal year for AI interaction with customers. He predicts a surge in AI adoption, with more individuals seamlessly integrating the technology into their daily lives.