Fourth industrial revolution technologies
In fact, the core finding of the entire study is that the technologies that make up the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR) have yet to be adopted with any enthusiasm by South African enterprises.
The research delved into current and planned uptake of emerging business technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.
“The most surprising finding was the lack of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, despite the marketing hype that suggests every large business is embracing it,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the 4IR research project.
“Only 13% of corporate South Africa is currently using AI and, of the rest, 21% plan to adopt it in the next 12 to 24 months.”
Prohibitive cost of AI
Nearly half of all respondents to the study cited cost of personnel and training in implemention as the reason for not yet embracing AI.
“Traditionally, intended uptake of new technologies shot up once education, awareness and knowledge increased,” added Goldstuck.
“Now, however, we are seeing the flip side of the coin. A year ago, 63% of those not using AI said they planned to use it in the future, and not a single company cited cost as a reason not to do so.
“year and much hype later, the market seems to have woken up to the realities of obstacles like skills and cost, and the proportion of those planning to use it has plunged.”
By contrast, robotics has moved to the forefront of corporate strategy and Goldstruck believes this shows how the fourth industrial revolution technologies will be adopted in South Africa, on an as-needs basis rather than just adopting new techologies for the sake of it.
“We were astonished when we sifted through the data,” says Goldstuck. “A year ago, only 6% of South African enterprises were using robotics. Then came the RPA explosion. Now the figure stands at 37%.”
“The report reveals quite dramatically the extent to which corporate South Africa seems to have a clear sense of what it needs and doesn’t need from the emerging technologies. The fourth industrial revolution will be cherry-picked, based on what will differentiate a business, rather than representing wholesale take-up of technologies for their own sake.”