Google – an AI company – says AI is very popular in SA

  • Makers of conversational AI bot Bard, Google, say that searches for AI-related topics have increased dramatically over the last year.
  • This isn’t all that surprising given that AI only really rose to prominence toward the end of 2022 and earlier this year.
  • Google’s data also reveals that searches for cybersecurity-related terms have also been on the rise.

This year has been the year of artificial intelligence platforms. The surge in popularity of conversational AI in ChatGPT and Bard has been rather overwhelming.

The rise in use and popularity of AI in the mainstream has led to massive investments. Just last week EY announced the launch of an AI platform on the back of a $1.4 billion investment.

But businesses aren’t the only entities interested in AI, data shared with Hypertext from Google reveals that interest in the technology is booming locally.

Searches from the terms “what is AI technology”, “how to invest in AI”, “who created AI” and more surged in South Africa. The company reports that searches for the above terms increased as much as 1 700 percent which seems extreme until one takes into account that at this time last year AI platforms weren’t nearly as popular in the mainstream as they are today.

We should also mention that Google operates Bard, its own AI platform.

“It’s heartening to observe the surge of interest in AI among South Africans. As with many across the African continent and the world at large, South Africans are keenly exploring and reaping the benefits of conscientiously developed AI tools. The technological landscape is evolving at an unprecedented rate, bringing forth a myriad of innovations. As we navigate this transformative era, our focus in South Africa remains clear: to collaborate closely, act with utmost responsibility, and ensure that we harness the vast potential of AI to its fullest, always prioritising its responsible application,” says the country director for Google South Africa, Alistair Mokoena.

As you might expect most searches regarding AI were for “AI song generator”, “AI logo generator” and other tools. Overall searches for AI-related topics have increased 230 percent compared to last year.

What we do find interesting is that there has been a massive surge in searches for cybersecurity-related topics from South Africans.

According to Google, the following terms saw the biggest gains between 2018 and 2023:

  • spear phishing – 4 050 percent increase
  • SMS phishing – 950 percent increase
  • rogue security software – 350 percent increase

Further to this, there has been a marked increase in the number of searches for online courses including searches for “digital marketing courses” increasing by 1 500 percent in 1012.

“Search interest in misinformation has also increased: with searches for ‘fact-checking’ increasing by over 450% over the past five years, while South Africa is one of the top 10 countries worldwide searching most for misinformation and information literacy this year. Trending searches on misinformation include ‘what is fake news?’, ‘how to spot fake news’, and ‘why do people spread fake news?’,” says Google.

This is great news and it’s good to see that South Africans are looking for real information online. Between getting new profile pictures drawn by AI of course.


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