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Search trends show interest in artifical intelligence in SA is at all-time high

6th October 2023

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Search trends revealed by Google show that interest in artificial intelligence (AI) in South Africa has reached an all-time high this year, increasing 230% since last year and by 700% in the past five years.

The top trending questions so far in 2023 include ‘what is AI technology?’, ‘how to invest in AI?’, ‘how does artificial intelligence work?’ and ‘who created AI?’, each reporting an increase in searches of 1 700%, 950%, 500% and 650% respectively.

“It is 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,” says Google South Africa country director Alistair Mokoena.

While South Africans are using Google Search to better understand AI, they have also started looking to leverage AI to build their careers, learn new skills, protect their cybersecurity, increase their productivity and capture their imagination.

Narrowing the search interest results, Google says that AI in relation to CV and resumés increased by over 1 050%, while searches for ‘AI song generator’ increased by 5 850%, ‘AI story writer’ by 1 400%, ‘AI logo generator’ by 5 560%, ‘AI video editor’ by 3 100% and ‘AI photo editor’ by 4 500%.

Searches for ‘how can I start a business with no money?’ have increased by 1 250% since last year, while searches for ‘how to make a website for your business?’ have increased by 200% and ‘how to start [an] online business from home’ have increased by 150%.

Further, as people in South Africa look to gain new certifications, particularly in digital skills, searches for courses in business management, teaching, health and safety and cybersecurity have all trended in 2023, with searches for ‘digital marketing courses’ having doubled in 2023 so far, while search interest in machine learning courses have increased by 1 500%.

“Google itself offers digital skills training and has trained over seven-million people across Africa through its Grow with Google programme since 2015. Google’s Career Certificates also offer a unique opportunity for jobseekers to reskill, without the need for a college degree or prior experience and offers certifications including data analytics, UX design and digital marketing,” adds Mokoena.

Meanwhile, trends released by Google also show that people in South Africa continue to be concerned about protecting their cybersecurity, with searches for ‘spear phishing’ increasing 4 050%, ‘SMS phishing’ increasing 950% and ‘rogue security software’ increasing 350%, while search interest in ‘Internet safety’ has tripled in 2023.

South Africa is one of the top ten countries worldwide searching for misinformation and information literacy this year, with searches for ‘fact-checking’ increasing by over 450% over the past five years. Trending searches on misinformation include ‘what is fake news?’, ‘how to spot fake news?’, and ‘why do people spread fake news?’

“Google is using AI to address security challenges and misinformation. Gmail automatically blocks 99.9% of malware, phishing and spam and protects more than 1.5-billion inboxes using AI, while, through the Google News Initiative, engineers are working directly with fact-checkers and publishers to use AI-enabled tools to find and tackle misinformation,” Mokoena explains.

Further, a team within Google that develops technology to counter online harms, Jigsaw, has partnered with local experts and academics to develop approaches to both directly counter disinformation and help people more easily identify and refute it.

Google, which released its conversational AI service Bard in South Africa in March, sees AI as having huge potential to help people, businesses and communities and has committed to pursuing AI responsibly, which includes advocating for responsible regulation, working in partnership with others to get AI right and prioritising the technology’s purpose for the public good.

“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,” Mokoena concludes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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