Generative AI boosts productivity and competitiveness in SA businesses — Study

A study has shown that South African enterprises are seeing significant boosts in productivity and competitiveness thanks to the introduction of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI).

World Wide Worx released a study showing where and how — if at all — South African enterprises use GenAI in the workplace.

A total of 100 businesses were surveyed, with just over half having 200 to 1,000 employees and the rest having above 1,000.

The study aimed to track South African businesses’ adaptation to new AI technologies.

Of the businesses included in the study, only 11% officially use GenAI, 24% unofficially use it as a tool (also called “shadow AI”), and 10% do both.

Another 45% of companies don’t currently use AI but plan to do so in the future.

This means South African businesses are very open to using the technology, considering only 10% don’t and never plan on using it.

However, it may take some time for generative AI to be normalised in the South African business sphere.

Just over half of businesses using it reported that they “only dabble with public services,” such as ChatGPT or Microsoft Copilot.

Only a third of businesses that use AI in the workplace use privately hosted instances.

Text and written content are the most common uses of GenAI, with 33.3% of businesses currently using it for this function.

Video creation, code generation, and audio creation followed at 27.8%, 24.4%, and 23.3% respectively.

Chatbots were sixth, with 21.1%, and an additional 75.6% of businesses plan on using them in the future.

Regarding GenAI tools, ChatGPT is by far the most used platform, with 93.3% of respondents saying they use it.

Interestingly, GPT-4, ChatGPT’s paid alternative, is more used than Microsoft Copilot and Google Gemini, which both offer free tiers.

The graph below shows the percentage usage of different AI platforms by the businesses surveyed.

The study also asked enterprises how the integration of GenAI affected business culture and practices.

Productivity was significantly influenced: 56.7% said GenAI had a “very positive” impact on productivity, and 28.9% said it had a “positive” impact.

GenAI also positively influenced competitiveness, with 71% saying it had a positive or very positive effect.

On the other hand, GenAI did not have as positive an impact on human resources, with 4.4% saying it negatively affected staff recruitment and 60% saying it had a neutral impact.

For companies considering integrating GenAI into their workplace, 95.6% of businesses pointed out that developing a strategy for AI use was the most essential factor guaranteeing its successful use.

Cybersecurity was the second most crucial consideration recommended by 95.6%, and the allocated budget was the third at 95.3%.

Developer skills, which one would imagine to be significant when integrating GenAI, were third last, only recommended by 73.3% as essential or very important.

This can be an encouraging sign to smaller businesses looking to bring GenAI into the workplace, as having access to highly skilled developers may be less necessary.

Businesses found GenAI most useful for product research, followed by market research and marketing content.

GenAI was only used by 29% of companies that used AI to create social media content.

As World Wide Worx CEO Arthur Goldstuck noted, “When you look at the range of cases and none of them truly standing out, in terms of unanimous usage, it really is a voyage of discovery.”

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Generative AI boosts productivity and competitiveness in SA businesses — Study