Kathy Gibson reports – 5G, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) could hold the key to South Africa’s future, giving us the opportunity to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
Arthur Goldstuck, MD of research company World Wide Worx, points out that South African organisations consistently show massive interest in AI, but so far there has been limited take-up.
“For the past four years of researching AI, we have seen there is an intention to embrace AI, but when it comes to executing it doesn’t happen,” he says.
“Part of the reason for this the perception of high costs, but the bigger stumbling block is the reality of skills shortages.”
Although skills shortages are holding companies back now, there is a lot of training underway now for introducing AI into universities and academies, and this should unlock its potential Goldstuck points out.
Businesses are going to operating differently going forward, and the way organisations relate to society will undergo big shifts, he adds. The five technologies that will drive these changes are:
* AI and machine learning (ML);
* Robotic process automation (RPA);
* Cloud-based business modelling, launching and operating
* Instant connectivity via 5G and beyond; and
Demonstrating how business is changing, Goldstuck points out that the last of South Africa’s giant music store chains, Musica, will close its last stores at the end of this month (31 May 2021).
“This spells the end of physical music distribution – but it has been a long time coming.”
And it won’t be the last business that will be terminally impacted by digital transformation. Goldstuck explains that all industries where the physical can be replaced by the digital will be affected, and possibly close down.
“For instance, the bookkeeper is not a dying breed – it is a dead breed,” he says. “There are numerous tools you can find online that replace the bookkeeper.”
In fact, there are a wealth of AI-based apps that are easily available to allow people to easily do things they used to hire experts for.
“Take your bank, for instance,” Goldstuck says. “The physical store represents infrastructure and cost.”
But new entrants eliminate these costs, and will ensure that the physical bank of the past will soon disappear completely.
Another industry that will be affected is the petrol station, he adds. “In most markets, the sale of electric vehicles is rising. In China electric vehicles will be 50% of new sales by 2030.
“Of course we till still have petrol stations, but they will become fewer and further between.”
The same is true of the parking garage. “By 2040, we can expect that looking for parking in a large parking lot will be history,” says Goldstuck. “The global autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach $557-billion by 2026, growing as 39,5% each year for the rest of this decade.”
He references Huawei rotating char Eric Xu is pointing out that, once autonomous vehicles become a reality we will see disruption in all adjacent areas.
“And it has already started. Just last month, Huawei unveiled its first electric vehicle. The companies currently making phones are now making cars. ”
There has been a massive investment in AI in Silicon Valley, and now China is doing more AI research, and applying research in its application. “In fact, China will catch up to the US in about 2025,” Goldstuck says. “This demonstrates the extent to which the biggest consumer market in the world is moving to AI, and how it will impact business and society.”
The jobs we can expect to disappear in the next few years include:
* Wired telecommunications carriers – which will see a 100% reduction;
* Newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers – 99%;
* Printing and related support activities – 82%;
* Travel arrangement and reservation services – 66%; and
* Cement and concrete product manufacturing – 57%.
New job categories will come to the fore, including:
* Individual and family services – which are expected to see a 1 052% growth, with 3,6-million people needed by 2029
* Computer systems design and related service – 574% growth (2,7-million jobs);
* Home health care services – 456% growth (1,9-million jobs);
* Management, scientific and technical consulting services – 334% growth (1,8-million jobs); and
* Outpatient care centres – 276% growth (200 000 jobs)
The raw skills that will be needed include:
* Care and therapy – being human with empathy, caring and consideration;
* Programming – problem solving, pattern recognition and creativity;
* Business consulting – analytical mind, networking skills;
* Start-ups – problem-solving and entrepreneurial mindset
Michael Langeveld, vice-president of Huawei’s cloud business in southern Africa, agrees that 4IR is accelerating our pace towards an intelligent world, as we see digitalisation across boundaries to drive an intelligent world.
An intelligent world is approaching faster than expected, he adds.
Langeveld points out that already 58% of the world population has access to 5G; 10% of businesses have adopted VR or AR; 85% of businesses and people are using cloud-based applications; 86% of enterprises are accelerating data utilisation; and 97% of large enterprises have adopted AI.
He says Huawei aims to be a major player in the new AI-centric world and focuses in the areas of ubiquitous connectivity, pervasive intelligence, personalised experience and providing a digital platform.