The AI takeover has arrived, and it is here to stay. Microsoft held an AI event at the Sandton Convention Centre today. The focus of the event was on the transformative potential of AI in shaping the future of innovation.
The event kicked off with a sizzling performance by the esteemed Ndlovu Youth Choir followed by a warm welcome by Kalane Rampai, CEO of Microsoft South Africa.
President of Microsoft Africa, Lillian Barnard, was one of the speakers of the day. Barnard touched on how AI is likely to increase up to 50% by 2030 if South Africa captures the global market and how this would add the already upward trajectory.
Barnard’s talk focused on providing essential infrastructure, skills and capacity building, supporting SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) to scale up as well as enabling innovation.
“Microsoft is currently offering 30 million skills to Africa in a time where SMEs are employing up to 90% of people on the African continent,” said. Barnard
But how ready is Africa for AI?
The current high numbers of rising unemployment in Africa demonstrate the lack of AI digital and tech skills. However, Barnard says they still see the investments of organisations playing a role in getting to better figures.
Microsoft announced that they have just signed a partnership with YES, which is a non-profit organization with the highest impact private sector youth employment programme in South Africa. The partnership will look to skill up 300 000 youth on AI. Microsoft made it a point to ensure that a few people as possible get left behind as times evolve.
“This collaborative effort with Microsoft is a testament to our ongoing commitment to equipping the youth with the digital skills for future-facing sectors and careers. The significant number of beneficiaries underscores the scale of impact we want to achieve through this partnership,” says Ravi Naidoo, CEO of YES.
Creating better supply chains
Microsoft has collaborated with entities such as eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality as they needed better ways to engage with their customers and track their service. This was used through Microsoft intelligence platform for the better management of water.
Barnard added that Microsoft has been responsible for using computer software to connect people who are based in rural areas such as the Eastern Cape, Kenya, Lagos and Cairo to name a few.
Multichoice is another case study that was presented by Barnard. She said that the Microsoft intelligent platform assisted Multichoice with speech to text captioning which reduced the production time by 30% with 80% accuracy, showing the need for AI in companies.
Even though AI is exciting and new, it is important to be responsible with it as it impacts the lives of many. Barnard outlined the key principles of responsible AI which rested on reliability, safety, privacy, security, transparency and accountability. This was so that the end user would feel safe knowing that their information and data were always safe.
“Microsoft has been in Africa for 30 years, being a long-standing trusted partner on digital transformation,” said Barnard.
Chief Technology Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mark Chaban, gave a very informative talk on the latest technological advancements that are available today.
Data centers are a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organisations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.
These servers have consumed a lot of energy over time which was a growing concern for Chaban, but it is no longer something to worry about all thanks to non-conductive cooling that allows for a data center to cool off while protecting the environment using 100 renewable energies.
AI for good
The AI for good initiative is a tool that enables a person with an idea to accelerate it, to give it scale, and to create change for the better. Programmes available for AI for good include AI for earth, health, accessibility, humanitarian action and Ai for cultural heritage. These tools have assisted with getting help to people as urgently and as accurately as possible.
“We really take big risks regardless of where it may take us. Innovation really spawns more innovation,” concluded Chaban.
Featured image supplied by Microsoft South Africa