What do South Africans think about artificial intelligence (AI)?

Viacom Global Insights South Africa recently polled our online community to find out how AI is perceived among people aged 18 to 49. Here’s what we learned:

Half of South Africans say they know what AI is. While 51% of respondents say they understand what AI is, the same percentage believe they don’t rely on it much. At least 44% say they rely on AI often, particularly in the form of digital assistants like Hey Google and Siri.

AI inspires a mix of fear and anticipation in South Africans. While many are unclear about how AI affects them, they have mixed feelings about how AI will develop in the future. When asked how they feel about the progress of AI, 45% say they’re excited, while 44% feel both excited and scared. Age influences these perceptions – respondents aged 18 to 24 are more excited about AI integration at school and work (77%) than those over age 45 (65%).

South Africans worry that AI could lead to job losses. While South Africans are generally excited about integrating AI into society, they also worry about the impact it will have on work and school. Most respondents believe the manufacturing industry will be hardest hit (47%), followed by finance and entertainment (both at 17%). The primary fears of those polled are that AI will take away jobs, make people lazy, replace humans, and develop a mind of its own.

But they see potential benefits as well. Overall, most South Africans polled believe that integrating AI into society is a good thing (73%). The reasons for their optimism include increased human productivity, eliminating errors, and improving processes.

It’s clear that the South African public has mixed feelings about the growing presence of AI at school, at work, in industry, and across everyday life. However, with greater understanding of what AI is and the impact it can have, there may be wider acceptance of the convenience that automation will bring to everyday tasks.