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How AI will disrupt the job market in South Africa and beyond

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Technological advancements, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of job disruption. Technology is said to be making work faster, more effective and increase revenue over time for business. What are some of these key developments and how could it affect your job?

At the Mines and Money conference in London, Anglo American warned of the looming robotics takeover in the mining industry. According to Anglo American’s Technical Director Tony O’Neill, mines will run without humans in the future. “The industry that everybody currently knows will be unrecognizable,” O’Neill said.

The Mercedes Benz SA annual Innovation Challenge Competition  saw the leading prize go to DataProphet, a machine learning specialist startup which won in the manufacturing category.  AI start-ups that stole the show include NumberBoost, an AI and machine learning applications company, who won in the sales and marketing category.

The increased push for convenience, mobility and digitised interactions for consumer experiences might mean more job losses for this sector as more companies see value in replacing people with smart technology. It may also create a myriad of different opportunities, new ways of work and deliverables that only humans can muster.

The Changing Labour Landscape

According to the Accenture report ‘Reworking the Revolution’ “one in three jobs are at risk of total automation in South Africa within the next decade”, which amounts to a staggering 5.7 million jobs. It also emphasises the importance of brands and businesses investing in human-machine collaboration practices where businesses can increase their revenue by 38% and grow employment by 10% percent.

The disruptive nature of the 4th Industrial Revolution is evident in the number of developments across all industries. In the legal sector, candidate attorneys spend endless hours sorting large documents, yet Artificial Intelligence promises to complete these tasks in a matter of minutes. Will this have a positive impact on the legal fraternity?

Sales people, payroll managers, clerks and many other professions are headed for digital transformation, it is not only manual jobs that face the risk of automation. Brands in the banking, insurance and automotive sectors are investing heavily in innovation and technology in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As a professional, you are called upon to invest in reskilling yourself in anticipation of the impact technology will have on your profession.

Is the hype around Artificial Intelligence unrealistic?

Richard Mulholland of Missing Link, said brands and professionals should stop obsessing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as it is not as scary as it is made out to be. Mulholland, speaking at the BCX Disrupt Summit in Johannesburg, emphasised how there is no schedule for the fourth industrial revolution and why it should not be feared.

South Africa is advised to double the pace at which its workforce is reskilled for the human-machine collaboration that, according to the Reworking the Revolution report, will reduce the number of jobs at risk of automation from 20 percent to just 14 percent in 2025.

However the point of Singularity, where Artificial Intelligence truly becomes smarter than humans, might be a game changer.

Be part of the revolution

Disruption, AI, Machine Learning, Robotics, Big Data, Digital Transformation are the buzz words of 2018, throughout any region of the world.

The threat presented by AI to the socio-economic landscape cannot be brushed off, yet the opportunities might outweigh the threats. Harnessing AI technology, reskilling the workforce of the future, redesigning and rethinking business strategies will set smart brands apart from the ordinary. South Africa might have been slow of the mark but it has now started the race for the robotics age.

Refiloe Molefe follows all things print at Ornico, which translates into insights and understanding on the impact of news on brands, business, government and society in general. He has a passion for trends in The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Molefe is an advocate for the positive impact of technology in the advancement of humanity. Follow Refiloe Molefe on Twitter: @Refzology
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