Sophia, a robot integrating the latest technologies and artificial intelligence, created by Hanson Robotics. South African firms have been slow to adopt emerging technologies, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. Picture: REUTERS
Sophia, a robot integrating the latest technologies and artificial intelligence, created by Hanson Robotics. South African firms have been slow to adopt emerging technologies, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. Picture: REUTERS

South African firms, which are behind the curve when it comes to the adoption of robotics, big data and machine learning, are on the cusp of embracing these emerging technologies, a research report shows.

"We see an interesting phenomenon in SA – there’s very narrow adoption of most emerging technologies, but there’s now a very high intent to use them," said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck, a technology pundit who compiled the report in partnership with software firm Syspro.

South African companies were "probably two or three years behind developed markets" in terms of integrating these technologies, Goldstuck told Business Day. "Bear in mind these technologies are relatively new everywhere. However, in markets like the US, Germany and Japan, we see very rapid adoption because of the competitive advantages that these technologies bring," he said.

Strong intent

The study, based on interviews with information technology heads at 400 large companies in SA, found low existing usage but strong intent to take on new technologies.

For instance, while only 13% of respondents said they already used big data and machine learning, another 55% said they would adopt these technologies soon. Robotics had been deployed in only 6% of local companies, but a further 45% said they planned to do so. The remaining 49% of respondents said cost constraints were keeping them away from robotics.

Owing to skills shortages, costs were also sidelining many firms from blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies. Blockchain was the only major emerging technology that was being avoided by most companies – just 3% were trying it.

On the other hand, Goldstuck said SA’s high crime rate meant local companies were probably up to speed with their developed market peers in the adoption of the internet of things (IoT). This was largely thanks to the sophistication of SA’s vehicle tracking industry.

David Gibb, the head of Anchor Capital’s global technology unit, said emerging technologies would lead to rising household income due to productivity growth.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.