By Kathy Gibson – South Africa’s largest enterprises are well on the way on their generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) journeys.

This is according to the South African Generative AI Roadmap for 2024 by World Wide Worx, commissioned by Dell Technologies and Intel, was designed to get a baseline of where GenAI is in the South African enterprise space.

A significant 45% are planning to use it, while 24% are using it “unofficially” as a shadow tool. “This indicates that the company is allowing it to happen,” says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx.

A further 10% are using AI both officially and unofficially, with just 10% not using or planning to use it in the foreseeable future.

“Considering GenAI only exploded on to the market at the end of 2022, that’s a very small percentage of companies not planning to use it.”

More than half of large companies are still only dabbling with publicly available GenAI tools – and this means that almost half are using it in a more advanced format.

The type of AI in use is led by text and written content, with more than one-third already using it and more than half planning to soon.

Video creation follows at about 27%, and 65% planning; and code generation at 24%, with 71% planning to use it soon.

Other applications either in use or in the pipeline include image creation, audio creation, chatbots, neural network creation and engineering design.

These applications are all either in use now, or planned, by upwards of 80% of the enterprises surveyed.

“You can see from these results that all AI tools are part of the future arsenal of the enterprise,” Goldstuck says.

The GenAI platforms is use are led by ChatGPT (93%), followed by GPT4 (64%). Microsoft CoPilot comes in at third place with 62%, then Google Geminia (55%), Scribe (37%), and GitHub (33%).

Critically, GenAI is having an effect on the company. Productivity stands out as having a very positive impact. “GenAI is already transforming the ability of companies to become more productive – and, by extension more competitive.”

Although trailing the impact on productivity, competitiveness is very positive for 42% of respondent and positive for 28%. Turnover has been very positive for 31% or enterprises and positive for 42%.

Logistics, sales effectiveness and profits have all seen a positive impact as well. More than half of companies say GenAI has had a positive or very positive impact on customer service, with 46% of them saying the impact has been neutral.

The factors determining success in GenAI use are having a strategy for AI use, and a strong cybersecurity stance are both ranked very high (96% and 95%), following by having a specific budge (93%) and a culture that allows for its use (93%).

“These are the keys to successful deployment of GenAI,” Goldstuck says.

Data analysis skills, infrastructure and financial resources are also important, following by oversight, data availability, developer skills, external advisers, and hiring policy.

Companies are mainly using GenAI for product research (67%), market research (54%) and marketing content (53%). Rather less common is data analysis – partly so low because GenAI tools have taken a while to be effective for data analysis.

Other uses, at less than one-third of cases, are report writing, social media content, website content, email content and training materials.

“The bottom line is that GenAI is no longer a futuristic concept, but a present-day reality the South African enterprises have firmly embraced it as a catalyst for innovation and growth,” Goldstuck concludes.

The fact that so many companies are using GenAI already is hugely significant, says Marc O’Regan, chief technology officer for Dell Technologies EMEA.

“It is exciting that the future is here, and today anyone can use GenAI,” he adds.

Although these technologies are incredibly complex, democratisation is rapidly making them available to more users than ever, and making them simpler to use, he says.

“At Dell, we know AI well, and have been working on the technology for decades,” O’Regan points out. “We have over 1 200 AI programmes running across Dell today. We use AI ourselves, and we build AI into the technologies we design.”

GenAI brings great opportunities, but also brings new risks, O’Regan says. “We see risk in skills and in how you harness AI appropriately. From an ecosystem perspective we see risk in exposing your organisation in a potentially catastrophic way.

“So we see a gap in the market for enterprises to scale AI in a different way.”

Doug Woolley, GM for Dell Southern Africa, says it’s clear The South African Generative AI Roadmap 2024 is a call to action for businesses to embrace this revolutionary wave of innovation.

“ Those who fail to adapt risk being left behind in an increasingly AI-driven economy,” he adds.

“Dell’s AI Consulting services help customers drive the rapid adoption and optimisation of their AI environments, from a comprehensive assessment, initial set-up, and integration through to extracting actionable insight from the customers’ data in the new environment.

“At Dell, we are committed to making AI real for our customers. We can offer personalised approach to help solve business challenges and drive innovation together. Our Customer Solution Centres offer the expertise, platforms, and tools to deliver proof of concepts and validate designs.”

He adds that the report provides valuable insights and a strategic roadmap for organisations seeking to unlock the technology’s potential.

“All in all, The South African Generative AI Roadmap 2024 paints a promising picture of widespread GenAI adoption and its potential to revolutionise South African businesses.

“With a focus on strategic implementation and harnessing the power of AI, South African companies are poised to unlock significant productivity gains and secure a competitive edge in the global marketplace.”