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AI adoption still in early stages

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Research released at the SAS Analytics Experience event in Amsterdam this week shows that challenges ranging from a skills gap to ethical issues are holding back AI.

The hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is intense. But for most European businesses surveyed in a recent study by SAS, the leader in analytics, AI adoption is still in the early or even planning stages. The good news is, the vast majority of organizations have begun to talk about AI, and a few have even begun to implement suitable projects. There is much optimism about the potential of AI, although fewer were confident that their organization was ready to exploit that potential.

It isn’t so much a lack of available technology slowing AI adoption; most attest that there are many options available. More often, the challenges come from a shortage of data science skills to maximize value from emerging AI technology, and deeper organizational and societal obstacles to AI adoption.

These were some of the findings of the Enterprise AI Promise Study, a phone survey of executives from 100 organizations across Europe in banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail, government and other industries. The SAS study was conducted in August to measure how business leaders felt about AI’s potential, how they use it today and plan to use it in the future, and what challenges they face.

The findings were revealed at the SAS Analytics Experience 2017 conference in Amsterdam this week.

Societal challenges

Fifty-five percent of respondents felt that the biggest challenge related to AI was the changing scope of human jobs in light of AI’s automation and autonomy. This potential effect of AI on jobs includes job losses but also the development of new jobs requiring new AI-related skills.

Ethical issues were cited as the second-biggest challenge, with 41 percent of respondents raising questions about whether robots and AI systems should have to work “for the good of humanity” rather than simply for a single company, and how to look after those who lost jobs to AI systems.

Data science team and organizational readiness

Are organizations’ data scientists ready for the challenge of emerging AI? Only 20 percent felt their data science teams were ready, while 19 percent had no data science teams at all.

Recruiting data scientists to build organizational skills was the plan for 28 percent of respondents, while 32 percent said they would build AI skills in their existing analyst teams through training, conferences and workshops.

Additionally, trust emerged as a major challenge in many organizations. Almost half of respondents (49 percent) mentioned cultural challenges due to a lack of trust in AI output and more broadly, a lack of trust in the results of so-called “black box” solutions.

Platform readiness

The study also sought to assess AI readiness in terms of infrastructure required. There was a contrast between those respondents who felt they had the right infrastructure in place for AI (24 percent), and those who felt they needed to update and adapt their current platform for AI (24 percent) or had no specific platform in place to address AI (29 percent).

Oliver Schabenberger, Executive Vice President and Chief Technoloogy Officer at SAS

Oliver Schabenberger, Executive Vice President and Chief Technoloogy Officer at SAS

“We’ve seen incredible advances in making algorithms perform – with stunning accuracy – tasks that a human could do,” said Oliver Schabenberger, Executive Vice President and Chief Technoloogy Officer at SAS. “It is remarkable that an algorithm beat the best Go player in the world. We thought that the game of Go could not be computerized – by man. But now a machine did it for us. Once the system knew the rules, it learned to play, and played better than the best of our species can play. We can use this knowledge to build systems that solve business problems as well or better than the static systems in use today. We can build systems that learn the rules of business, then learn to play by the rules and are designed to then improve. That is what SAS is working on.”

 

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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