- As several technology companies compete for dominance in the AI race, AWS general manager for SA, Chris Erasmus, says local businesses need as many options as possible to choose from.
- With a myriad possibilities available via AI, the right environment needs to be fostered in his view.
- South African businesses will “need greater choice and flexibility,” says Erasmus.
By now the pervasiveness of artificial intelligence in 2023 has been well documented, as several big tech companies are actively investing in platforms in order to win the AI race and become the go-to destination for businesses wanting to leverage the power of this technology.
According to Chris Erasmus, South African general manager for Amazon Web Services (AWS), now is not the time to get caught up in who will win the AI race. In fact, Erasmus advocates for having more players entering the field to ensure that the right environmental conditions can be fostered to truly make the most of artificial intelligence.
“Rather than focusing on who will win the race, we believe the priority should be getting as many runners on the track as possible and ensuring that every single South African business has the opportunity to unlock the potential of AI and compete on the world stage. In fact, this is not a winner-takes-all situation; there is potential for many winners in this race,” he highlighted in an op-ed shared with Hypertext.
As for how this environment can be fostered, Erasmus makes mention of three key elements – collaboration, choice, and skills.
“Global cooperation will be critical, because the opportunities and risks presented by AI models are fundamentally global in nature,” he points out.
“South African businesses need greater choice and flexibility so they can easily access and select the AI solutions that best meet their needs. That’s because not every AI model works for all use cases; no one size fits all,” Erasmus stresses.
As for skills development, it is an aspect that cannot be left unaddressed for too long.
“It’s no secret that digital and tech skills are in great demand across numerous industries. The longer we leave this gap to widen, our economy will struggle to grow, but our unemployment rate certainly will not,” he warns.
“Affordable and robust training programmes need to be put in place and promoted by both businesses and the government to create a future pipeline of talent equipped with both basic and advanced digital skills to propel the South African AI innovation forward,” Erasmus advises.
Here the GM highlights some of the skills development platforms that AWS has on offer, with the AWS AI and ML Scholarship Programme and the Machine Learning University getting specific mention as offerings designed to ensure AI skills are acquired effectively and responsibly.
Moving forward, AWS’ Erasmus says the AI race should be seen as an opportunity to help propel innovation both in our country and across the continent.
“The transformative potential of AI is clear. By actively supporting local innovation across South Africa, the Government has the opportunity to not only achieve – but accelerate – its ambition to be a global tech player. But to accomplish this, we must ensure all South African businesses have the right support, tools, and skills to successfully get off the starting blocks,” Erasmus concludes.