Companies around the world are expecting to apply artificial intelligence (AI) within their companies in the next few years but are lagging in discussions of the ethics around it, research from Genesys finds. More than half of the employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots, although 21% expressed a definite concern that their companies could use AI in an unethical manner.
“As a company delivering numerous customer experience solutions enabled by AI, we understand this technology has great potential that also comes with tremendous responsibility,” says Merijn te Booij, chief marketing officer, Genesys. “This research gives us important insight into how businesses and their employees are really thinking about the implications of AI – and where we as a technology community can help them steer an ethical path forward in its use.”
The research findings stem from opinion surveys sponsored by Genesys, a global leader in omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions, into the broad attitudes of 1,103 employers and 4,207 employeesregarding the current and future effects of AI on their workplaces. The 5,310 participants were drawn from six countries: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Genesys found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of the employers surveyed expect their companies to be using AI or advanced automation by 2022 to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting or performance, although only 25% are using it now. Yet in spite of the growing trend, 54% of employers questioned say they are not troubled that AI could be used unethically by their companies as a whole or by individual employees (52%). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17% expressing concern about their companies.
Millennials say to put it in writing
A fair number of employers surveyed (28%) are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23% say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots. Meanwhile an additional 40% of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one, a stance supported by 54% of employees.
Even more interesting is that just over half of employers (52%) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57%) than employers (52%) to support a requirement by unions or other regulatory bodies.
The Genesys surveys underscore that Millennials (ages 18-38) are the age group most comfortable with technology, yet they also have the strongest opinions that guard rails are needed. Across the countries, the survey questions about AI ethics resonated more with Millennials than with Generation X (ages 39-54) or Baby Boomers (ages 55-73). Whether it’s anxiety over AI, desire for a corporate AI ethics policy, worry about liability related to AI misuse, or willingness to require a human employee-to-AI ratio — it’s the youngest group of employers who consistently voice the most apprehension. For example, 21% of Millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12% of Gen X and only 6% of Baby Boomers.
te Booij says: “Our research reveals both employers and employees welcome the increasingly important role AI-enabled technologies will play in the workplace and hold a surprisingly consistent view toward the ethical implications of this intelligent technology. We advise companies to develop and document their policies on AI sooner rather than later – making employees a part of the process to quell any apprehension and promote an environment of trust and transparency.”
Genesys commissioned third-party research consultancy Vitreous World to conduct online surveys in six countries of 5,310 adult employers or employees, coming from a total pool of 28 industry categories. The margin of error is plus/minus 3 percent.
Meet the accountant of the future
The accountant of the future will need a new set of skills, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he meets both the local users and the global creators of Xero accounting software
Meet Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca. They are not only partners in marriage, but also in a thriving accounting business. Buchule and Sivenathi are, respectively, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of SMTAX, which focuses on tax and accounting services for small businesses in the Western Cape, but includes the likes of Absa and Old Mutual among its clients. It employs 18 people and has 4,500 individual and business customers.
That’s not what makes the outfit remarkable. The startling feature of this business is that it has been structured to be a model accounting firm of the next decade. Even more remarkable is the fact that the couple both hail from rural areas where thoughts of the future tend to be about survival rather than blazing new trails.
Last week, they made their first trip out of the country, to attend Xerocon London 2019. This 2-day conference, hosted by the world’s fastest growing accounting software maker, Xero, attracted more than 3,000 delegates from the United Kingdom, Europe Middle East and Africa. A total of 57 Xero partners and users, mostly from accounting practices or suppliers to accountants, made the trek from South Africa.
“It was really about seeing how other accountants on other continents operate in terms of how they think and where their headspace is at,” Buchule told us during Xerocon. “Also, being our first time out of the country, it was to see the culture of other small businesses outside of South Africa.
“London’s quite different in that regard, but it’s been a really a great learning curve, and we were pleasantly surprised to find elements that look like South Africa, where we can say, at least you’re doing something right. The banking environment is quite unique, as it’s been a really good learning curve in terms of where banking might go to in the future of South Africa if they follow the same trend.”
Buchule comes from the “dusty streets” of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, while Sivenathi grew up on a farm in a deep rural area near Mthatha.
“I had no idea about technology or the rest of the world or how it could impact the economy in general,” she said. The two met at the University of Cape Town, where she was studying to be an actuary, and he completed a Masters degree in tax. She decided to put actuarial science behind her, however, when the opportunity arose to join Buchule’s business. But her skills helped transform the business.
Said Buchule: “When Sivenathi came on board we did the modeling of the business, and we said that in order to in order to automate the whole bookkeeping journey, we would need to turn closer and closer towards ‘x’, meaning fully automated bookkeeping. We looked at the journey of how long it will it take for us to get to time ‘x’. And then we said, OK, once we get there, what then?
“It was a big realization that when we do get to time ‘x’, the most important thing will be the human touch. That will be the differentiator. So we then spent our time developing that.”
Visit the next page to read more about the Xerocon 2019 event.
Takealot reveals startling numbers for Black Friday
Takealot has revealed startling numbers for expected bumper sales this holiday season, beginning next week, and peaking with Black Friday.
South Africa’s leading ecommerce group expects to ship at least one order every second, with roughly 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour, this shopping season.
Black Friday was first introduced to South Africa by Takealot in 2012, and has since become an important day in South Africa’s annual retail calendar. It has been a record-breaker for both retailers in the Takealot Group: Takealot and Superbalist. Takealot’s Black Friday gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 125% from 2017 to 2018, with orders up 127%. Superbalist’s Black Friday GMV has grown on average around 50%. This year, CEO Kim Reid is anticipating the biggest Black Friday yet, a culmination of months of tech and operational business-wide focus to prepare for increased predicted traffic and shopper volumes.
ABSA bank estimates that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. And FNB reports in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019.
Successfully meeting this massive growth in orders has been a key focus for the Takealot Group. CEO Kim Reid says throughout the year they have been working to scale operations across multiple areas within the business. “After expanding our Johannesburg distribution centre (DC), our warehouse storage space now stands at 75 000m2. We house over 3.7 million items at any given time, and have opened 47 Takealot Pickup Points in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga for order collections and returns, with more to open in the coming months.”
Takealot Delivery Team delivers to more South African homes than any other courier company in the country. On a monthly basis, they carry out over 1.6-million deliveries, with this number expected to increase to over 2-million during the shopping season. More than 4,500 drivers currently deliver for the Takealot Delivery Team; a number that is growing every month. The Takealot group anticipates they’ll travel over 4,000 000km from Black Friday until 24 December. “To put that in context, it is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times” says Reid.
Takealot.com’s Blue Dot Sale is a five day sale period which starts on Black Friday (29 November) and sees a range of new deals throughout the weekend as well as on Cyber Monday (2 December) and Takealot Tuesday (3 December), with up to 60% off thousands of items. For the first time, takealot.com will also be giving their shoppers early access to some of its Black Friday deals, starting on 24 November. Fresh new app-only deals will be added daily.
The Superbalist Showdown will run from 29 November to 3 December, with up to 70% off more than 15 000+ items. Superbalist shoppers will also have early access to Black Friday deals on selected days throughout November, with Superbalist’s Black Friday Spoilers – 24 hours to shop deals that they say won’t be beaten on Black Friday.