Artificial intelligence (AI) in its most simple explanation refers to the application of human intelligence in the devices and technologies that we use. This could be your cellphone being able to recognise your eye to unlock your device in the same way that a family member who knows you well enough could in a line-up of people with just their eyes showing.

Across the African continent, the adoption and use of digital technologies is growing. Of the types of digital technologies most used, the highest on the list are fintech solutions such as money transfer tools, money apps and investing tools, social media, workplace technology, the cloud and the internet.

And although there is room for further growth of digital penetration among citizens, those using the technologies are increasingly, whether aware of it or not, using machine learning and AI almost daily as they do.

A powerful everyday tool

“It’s important to recognize that, unlike so many other fads, AI is probably a once in a generational shift. This isn’t just ‘the next new thing’. This is a once-in-20 or 30-year fundamental change in how we are going to interact with technology. And anyone who doesn’t understand that should really get to grips with things like ChatGPT to see first-hand how powerful these tools actually are,” says Glenn Gillis, CEO of Sea Monster.

There is no industry in the world and no part of human life that isn’t going to be profoundly affected by AI. As such, it’s imperative that we focus on the story and how we keep humans at the centre of all the experiences we create. We are certainly not scared of what the future of work with AI will look like.

“Like a lot of technology, AI is useful immediately and extremely cost effective to businesses. For us, we are using it daily to write copy; to generate art and specifically art assets. We are very mindful of the raging global debate about who actually owns the content generated by AI so we are very intentional with using AI in tangent with our own creative skills and our own concept artists to maximise our efficiency,” he adds.

Generational daily use for insurance

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Z, born after 1996, are increasingly embracing artificial intelligence and human-machine symbiosis by linking this innovation to their daily activities in some shape or form.

For example, with smartwatches, their exercise routines are monitored digitally, and are synchronised to heartbeat monitors on these devices, which then synchronise the data with their music selections – and so it goes on. This means that they are using this cutting-edge technology as an intentional extension of their personalities and day-to-day activities.

Digitally-based car insurer, MiWay Blink makes it possible for drivers to add their driving patterns to their digital profile. This is achieved by linking their motoring activity to their motor insurance profile – and ultimately to their bank account balance through tech.

“The pay-as-you-drive motor insurance model helps customers get better value because they pay in line with their actual risk profile. This gives consumers the added advantage of controlling their motor insurance expense throughout the month by monitoring their driving,” says head of MiWay Blink, Keletso Mpisane.

Smart saving and investing

To help day-to-day saving and investing, AI provides tools for sophisticated analysis of financial patterns that may not otherwise be available to people (or professional investors either, for that matter). This can help to level the playing field and make investing more accessible to a wider range of people.

“It’s really all about democratising access,” explains Heloise Greeff, director of Greeff Invest. “Many people have found the idea of investing quite intimidating because the field has traditionally been dominated by specialists and experts, and it hasn’t been a particularly welcoming place for ordinary people to get involved in as decision-makers. This can help to level the playing fields and make investing more accessible to a wider range of people.”

Workplace productivity

“In a world where asynchronous work is increasingly becoming the norm and where four-day workweek experiments are proving successful, what kind of approach do you want to take as an employer to enhance productivity?” asks Andrew Bourne, regional manager: Africa of Zoho.

AI is now being used in productivity-enhancing software, for example, Zoho BluePencil, an AI-based grammar tool with a text editor that can be used on any third-party webpage.
“Good task management software, for instance, easily allows you to manage and track the life cycle of whatever projects you’re working on. Even better ones won’t just monitor performance against set tasks but will also make it easier for employees to be productive by converting emails into tasks, for instance,” he adds.