Accenture and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) have launched a whitepaper on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to impact the macro environment. Themed “Responsible AI,” the whitepaper explores associated challenges and opportunities faced by organisations.
“There’s no longer any doubt that artificial intelligence has the ability to amplify growth for companies. So from a business point of view, it makes sense,” notes Rory Moore, Innovation Lead at Accenture and one of the report’s contributors. “But then you also need to keep ethics in mind and be socially responsible. In a market like South Africa, these issues are particularly prominent and pertinent.”
Given the fact that the traditional factors of production – capital and labour – are showing declining ability to drive economic growth, Moore notes, a new a new factor of production – AI – may provide the necessary kickstart.
Intelligent automation, labour and capital augmentation and innovation diffusion are all routes through which the technology has the ability to drive growth, the report explains. AI can both automate complex physical tasks and free up people from more mundane work to imagine, create and innovate.
Dr Jeff Chen, lecturer at GIBS and co-author of the whitepaper says, “AI is not a buzzword. These hyper-intelligent algorithms, coupled with innovative business models, will ineluctably change the customer dynamics and the modus operandi of many South African organisations.”
Prior research conducted by Accenture and referenced in the report notes that AI has the potential to boost rates of profitability by an average of 38 percent by 2035, double economic growth rates and lead to an economic boost of USD14 trillion across 16 industries in 12 economies by the same date. “Leaders across all sectors must work together to ensure their organisations can fully leverage the power of AI responsibly and promote inclusive growth of our nation,” Chen adds.
Critically, however, Moore notes that organisations need to adopt a people-centric mindset when thinking about applying AI. “South Africa is at an inflection point … if we get it (AI) right, there is an opportunity to stimulate growth.” While concerns regarding AI’s effect on unemployment should not be discounted, he explains, the technology also allows for the better deployment of human resources and the redirection of human intellect to more value-adding areas of business.
Further benefits of the application of AI in a business context include the generation of real-time insights, the formulation of foresight through predictive analytics, the automation of manual processes and the move from assisted intelligence to assisted alliances. Further AI-based opportunities identified by the authors include assistance to human decision making, the enablement of better business intelligence and improved customer-centrism.
Broader philosophical questions are also tackled by the authors, with questions such as ‘How do we distribute the wealth created by machines?’ and ‘How do machines affect our behaviour and interaction?’ addressed.
The clock is ticking, however. Businesses don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to plotting a course through this new AI-enabled business landscape, Moore says. “We need to start playing in this space now,” he emphasises. “We’ll lose out, if we don’t. The question is not ‘Are we going to use artificial intelligence? Rather, it’s how do we use it … and then move forward in an ethically sustainable manner?’.”