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Emerging Tech

Google study shows major AI interest from South Africans

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South Africans are showing major interest in artificial intelligence (AI), with Google searches related to AI topics increasing by 370% over the last year.

That's according to new research released by Google that showed searches for AI reached an all-time high last year in South Africa and grew 650% over the last five years.

Top searched questions included "what is artificial intelligence" and "how to use AI," while searches for "what is the current situation of AI" and "what is generative AI" increased by over 5,000%.

The trends data complements Google's new AI global survey, "Our Life with AI: The reality of today and the promise of tomorrow." The survey found that 91% of South African respondents felt that peoples' daily lives will look different five years from now because of AI.

Respondents from South Africa also reported that AI was already having an impact on the way we access information (81%), learn (78%) and work (72%). In addition, South African respondents were excited about the possibilities of AI (60%).

AI's impact in SA

When it comes to AI's impact in the next five years, 82% of SA respondents felt AI will have a positive impact on their ability to understand complex topics, and 79% think it will benefit the way they learn.

Meanwhile, 73% of South Africans said it would impact the accuracy of medical diagnoses and 73% also said it would aid the effectiveness of the school curriculum.

In South Africa, 95% of the survey group felt that AI will change most jobs and industries over the next five years, while 83% predicted that it will change the economy.

Locals felt that AI would benefit society as a whole (76%) and felt that South Africa will be able to harness the potential of AI over the next five years (63%).

"It's great to see people in South Africa showing such a keen interest in the potential of AI as a transformative technology. People across the world are benefitting from responsibly developed AI tools every day – but it's important that we get this right," said Matt Brittin, president of Google Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Brittin added that it is important to work with governments to maximize the potential of AI, make sure everyone can benefit from it, and minimize its abuse.

The majority of South Africans surveyed by Google think AI will benefit the way they learn and can improve the effectiveness of the school curriculum.   (Source: rawpixel.com on Freepik)
The majority of South Africans surveyed by Google think AI will benefit the way they learn and can improve the effectiveness of the school curriculum.
(Source: rawpixel.com on Freepik)

When asked which institutions they have confidence in to oversee the development of AI in the best interests of the public, South Africa favored technology companies (90%) and academic institutions (85%) over the government (50%) and armed forces (61%).

But their preferred approach was collaborative: 91% of respondents felt that the government and technology companies should work together to educate students and workers about AI, while 88% wanted the same collaboration to ensure everyone is able to benefit from AI advancements.

Only 34% felt we should completely pause the use and development of AI.

Alex Okosi, Google's managing director for Africa, recently spoke to Connecting Africa about Google's AI strategy in Africa including its AI-powered search and how local businesses can harness the potential of AI.


Follow Connecting Africa on our new X account @connect__africa to get the latest telecoms and tech news across Africa.


The global survey was conducted by Ipsos in late 2023, on behalf of Google, and surveyed roughly 1,000 adults (18+) representative of the online population of each in Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

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*Top image source: Freepik.

— The Staff, Connecting Africa

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