South African businesses are already seeing AI-based automation rolling out in digital and communication spaces, and this trend is expected to continue over the coming year, says Michael Daniels, Head of Automation at group and shared capacity at Standard Bank.
Daniels said two of the most common ways companies use to engage in automation are chatbots, automated emails, and web services.
“Designed to perform basic functions, such as responding to customer queries and data-related requests, businesses can ‘train’ chatbots to respond to specific statements and questions based on interactions determined by product offerings. and specific services of a company.”
He said Gartner predicted that by 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate technology into their engagement channels.
Automated web services take this function even further, Daniels said, noting that AI can be trained using innovative processes, such as natural language processing and optical character recognition, in which machines learn to identify and respond to typed text and visual data, and even analyze the sentiment of the written word.
Customers may receive email responses based on their initial emails based on what the bot was trained to search for, he said.
Jobs may be replaced, but new ones will be gained
With the proliferation of machine-based automation, questions arise as to its impact on the labor market in South Africa. The country’s young people are already facing an uphill battle in the labor market, with almost half (46.3%) of people aged 15-34 unemployed.
However, Daniels said only certain types of work are at risk from automation – and it’s likely the new technology will also create new jobs.
“Today’s automation targets a specific type of work: one that involves strict routine, structured data, or rules-based tasks. From filing application forms to verifying information, these are the types of jobs that are ideal for AI-automated processes,” Daniels said.
“While these jobs can be replaced, with automation comes a growth in job opportunities around the application of this technology. There will always be a need for humans to interact with other humans, create new things and solve problems, and have empathy for customers.
Daniels said there will also be a need for the work needed to keep automation processes running smoothly.
“Coding, programming and computer skills will become even more valuable, and an expansion of the field will lead to different job opportunities,” he said.
This corresponds to a 2018 report published by global consultancy Accenture, which found that repetitive jobs such as clerks, cashiers, cashiers, construction, mining and maintenance workers are most at risk in South Africa.
In comparison, hard-to-automate jobs include tasks such as influencing people, teaching people, scheduling, chatting in real time, advising people, negotiating, and cooperating with colleagues.
Training and Development
The increase in work opportunities in areas related to computing and machine learning means that the focus on education in South Africa must evolve in response to these demands, Daniels said.
Whereas previously a company could have one or two people involved in IT, it can now benefit from three to four people in this function. Education, especially in STEM learning and broader IT-related subjects, is key to this, he said.
“What we’re seeing in South Africa is companies being proactive in training and developing their people. This offers leaders the opportunity to engage and fully understand the shift to an automated workspace and equip employees for future work processes. »
“Not all businesses can adapt like this, however. Many simply do not have the infrastructure or knowledge to introduce AI processes or training into their operations. »
This is where the South African startup scene, especially fintech and data science companies, can make a difference, Daniels said.
“SMEs could partner with larger companies to build capacity, while in turn receiving support to grow.”
Read: Court rules South Africa’s matrix marks should be publicly released