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AI and ML Adoption in South Africa Vs European Countries

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In a recent study conducted by Workday, examining how Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will impact the future of work, it is revealed that leaders know their organizations would benefit from AI and ML, despite the differing views on these technologies.

Based on key findings from the report, when considering all the leaders that were surveyed, South Africans are among the least enthusiastic when it comes to adopting AI and ML technologies, compared to leaders in the UK and Austria, who scored higher in their levels of adopting these new technologies.

The report also showed that even though leaders in the EMEA region are less enthusiastic about adopting AI and ML, they are generally more trusting of AI and ML. Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU is in the process of proposing a new legal framework for AI – the EU AI Act. This is focused on strengthening governance around data quality, transparency, and human oversight, and encouraging greater trust in the technology.

Northern European organizations are leading the way in AI and ML investment, while Southern European organizations have a more conservative investment approach.

Boardroom views and adoption of AI and ML differ

While enthusiasm is high, different functions have different views on AI and ML, and also on the implementation of these technologies.

A significant 53% of EMEA CEOs are excited to use these technologies in their organizations. However, they are concerned about the potential mistakes that AI and ML could introduce.

Sectors leading in the adoption of AI

Finance: Finance teams are the most progressive in implementing these technologies in their daily work—19% of CFOs said their teams are scaling AI or are at maturity. European and African finance leaders are using AI/ML to improve forecasting, budget decisions and scenario planning, as well as to support strategic planning across business lines.

HR: This sector is lagging in adoption.  HR shows the slowest AI adoption rates, with 44% of EMEA HR leaders excited about the potential but 49% yet to embark on AI and ML adoption within their teams.

IT: Leaders are most likely (51%) to say that AI and ML will make it easier for IT to support other business teams or enable them to deliver more strategic value. This indicates that there is a positive cultural shift towards AI and ML within European and African IT teams.

Data Silos and Bureaucracy holding companies back

Among the various issues holding organizations back from adopting AI and ML are data silos and bureaucracy. 60% of European, African, and organizations in the greater EMEA region say their data is siloed, which makes it difficult for them to access usable insights in real-time.   

Moreover, only a third (33%) of organizations – and 36% in South Africa –  have made good progress in removing bureaucratic processes that slow down decision-making. For many organizations, greater use of AI and ML demands a significant cultural shift—but for this to happen, top-level management needs to be on board.

“If managers themselves have a good understanding of AI and they’re willing to help their employee to accept the AI and appreciate the value and merit of it, then they can help their employee to work with it in a professional manner”, said Kirk Chang, Professor of Technovation and People Management, and Director for the Centre of Innovation, Management and Enterprise, University of East London.

“Human beings are not willing to give their power away. They don’t want to share their responsibility with AI for different reasons. Maybe for the fear, maybe for the job opportunity, maybe they worry other people will have different views about their status or their leadership. There are a lot of mixed feelings there,” he added.

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