Generative AI and other rapidly evolving technologies are ushering in a bold new future for business as physical and digital worlds become inextricably linked.

These are among the findings of the Accenture Technology Vision 2023, “When Atoms Meet Bits: The Foundations of Our New Reality”, which explores the technology trends underpinning the convergence of the physical and digital, as businesses look to accelerate enterprise reinvention in the here and now.

“The next decade will be defined by three mega technology trends – cloud, metaverse and AI – which will collectively collapse the distance of our digital and physical worlds,” says Paul Daugherty, group chief executive of Accenture Technology.

“While generative AI will have far-reaching impact, leaders must dive in now to achieve its full promise, as it will require significant investments in data, people, and customising foundation models to meet organisations’ unique needs.

The meteoric rise of ChatGPT has captivated the world’s attention on the power of generative AI to augment human capability. Accenture estimates as much as 40% of all working hours will be supported or augmented by language-based AI.

Among business leaders, 99% of South African respondents agree AI foundation models will play an important role in their organisation’s strategies over the next three to five years.

Accenture’s Technology Vision 2023 identifies four trends that are key to unlocking this new shared reality:

* Generative AI: Advancing human capability as a co-pilot, creative partner or advisor, nearly all South African executives agree that generative AI will spark significant creativity and innovation (98%) and usher in a new era of enterprise intelligence (97%).

* Digital identity: The ability to authenticate digital users and assets – the foundation for traversing digital and physical worlds – is now seen by 79% of local executives as a strategic business imperative, not just a technical issue.

* My data, your data, our data: AI cannot reach its full potential until companies figure out data. That means breaking down data silos and modernising their data foundations. In fact, 93% of South African executives believe data is becoming a key competitive differentiator within organisations and across industries.

The next wave of business transformation will create the foundations of a new reality – a shared reality that seamlessly converges the physical lives we’ve been leading with the digital lives we’ve been rapidly expanding,” says Kgomotso Lebele, technology lead for Accenture in Africa.

“Looking at generative AI – right now scores of people are using it to generate purely digital images and content, but we already see how it’s poised to shape the future of science, enterprise data, how we design and manufacture products, and so much more.”