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Where does SA stand on machine learning?

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While the South African market has become more aware of machine learning – as well as its capabilities and the value it can add to a business – machine learning uptake and local industry development lags behind several developed markets (not by months, but years).
This is according to DataProphet MD Frans Cronje who highlights that tertiary courses promoting machine learning have only recently become available in South Africa. “It will therefore take time to develop the talent required to ‘catch up’ with competing markets such as the United States,” he says.
As a subset of artificial intelligence which explores the development of algorithms that learn from available data, machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.
Having been in the market for more than two years and with a growing team specialising in producing bleeding-edge machine learning solutions, DataProphet is one of the most well-established companies purely focused on developing and implementing machine learning solutions in the country.
Cronje, who holds an Honours Degree in Actuarial Science and a Masters in Mathematical Statistics, says that the recent development of several degrees with specific focus on machine learning is likely to begin a positive shift in developing machine learning capabilities which can support multiple industries.
“South Africa has several industries competing on an international level. Adopting and incorporating machine learning will enable these industries to maintain their world class status and will further promote the development of the machine learning field in South Africa.
“It is encouraging that we are witnessing more and more South African corporates experiment with machine learning, trialling various approaches and implementing the ones best suited to their business – whether this be in their marketing, sales or overall operations departments. The results rendered by these projects will only motivate more companies to become data driven in their strategy,” Cronje explains.
DataProphet commercial director and co-founder, Daniel Schwartzkopff explains that the US machine learning market is significantly better developed, understood and competitive than that of South Africa at this time.
“Having worked with several start-ups in San Francisco, it is clear that machine learning solutions are abundant and that it is not only tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook taking advantage of this technology.
“While South Africa has a number of challenges to overcome in this regard such as education and opening up to innovation, the market is finally coming around to the potential of machine learning. This is crucial for South African industry to prevent falling behind competitors on a global scale,” he concludes.