AI vs human skill: is there a winner?

That Artificial Intelligence will replace the need for a human workforce, is a misconception. Rather, AI is an effective tool that can support a business to build a more efficient workforce and assist with cost-saving initiatives.

This is the view of Wessel Oosthuizen, Senior Manager, TMT, Deloitte Africa, who says that skills and capacity building in the field of AI, as well as critical thinking and a workforce that understands how to leverage this technology – are key for businesses to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world.

“Individuals with finance, engineering or computer science backgrounds – who understand both the possibilities that AI presents and its limitations – are priceless. They combine their subject matter expertise, critical thinking, data analysis and innovation, with AI tools and techniques to help their organisations make the most of AI and similar technologies” said Oosthuizen.

His sentiments are echoed in Deloitte’s recently released 18th edition of its Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions (TMT Predictions), which finds that while enterprise software and cloud-based development platforms can provide effective gateways to AI, they are not a substitute for having at least some technical AI talent, in-house.

Companies need their own AI experts to develop and customise algorithms using AI development platforms.

“These experts can also help ensure that companies invest in AI applications and services which address their business needs – ensuring they’re not just building AI applications for the sake of it but rather that they’re building effective models that answer specific business needs,” said Oosthuizen.

While South African businesses have been somewhat slow to adopt AI, Oosthuizen said that we are now experiencing an uptick in the integration and implementation of AI in the workplace, with much of it being used in the back-end to increase productivity and efficiency.

Earlier research by Deloitte suggests that by removing routine work, automation actually makes jobs more human and the role and contribution of people in work, more important and more valuable.

The value of automation and AI, according to this research, does not lie in this technology’s ability to replace human labour with machines. Rather, it frees up human capacity and enables additional capability, so that people can focus on higher order value creating activities.

AI is also an effective tool to better understand the customer proposition.

“AI enables a business to create a holistic view of its clients, by making use of all available data, including structured and unstructured data (call centre information, social media, location based information etc.)”, said Oosthuizen.

“This is done by augmenting current analysis by incorporating all the customer touch points in the organisation.”

Deloitte’s TMT Predictions also finds that in 2019, companies will further accelerate usage of cloud-based AI software and services. Among companies using AI, 70% will obtain AI capabilities through cloud-based enterprise software; 65% will create AI applications using cloud-based development services; and by 2020, the penetration rate of enterprise software with built-in AI and cloud-based AI development services will reach an estimated 87% and 83% respectively.

Read: Robots taking jobs means 120 million workers need retraining

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AI vs human skill: is there a winner?