It was while studying computer science at UCT that Rapelang Rabana and two friends had an idea that would lead to their first tech business at age 23. Airtime was an expensive commodity for cash-strapped students, so Rabana and her friends devised a system to communicate. “We’d send each other ‘please call me’ messages. I remember one ‘please call me’ meant, I’ll meet you at 5pm, two ‘please call me’ meant we’d meet at 6pm and so on.”
While the system saved them money, it was laborious and frustrating. Their solution, straight out of university, was to create Yeigo – South Africa’s first mobile VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) solution, enabling much cheaper cellphone calls. The business was sold in 2009 and Rabana went on to create Rekindle Learning, a digital solution to increase learning efficiencies.
Speaking at Ads24’s recent Food for Thought – Rabana explored the theme of humans vs robots from a pro-tech and AI advantage, encouraging participants to see technology as a tool in the next phase of our evolution as humans.
Rabana believes there are myriad ways in which technology can empower humans through access to knowledge, education, and information.
“Rekindle Learning was created to help university students improve their English skills knowing the poor standards of education coming out [of many] high schools. If we are ever going to see real change on the continent we are going to have to educate and skill people faster than we ever have before. Being pro-AI is also being pro-human if we understand how it improves our capabilities as people,” she says.
There is a common fear that AI will “take our jobs”, and while Rabana concedes that robots will certainly replace some jobs, she believes that technology will also create new opportunities for employment.
“In fairness, if a machine can do something that you were doing before, maybe it’s a hint to shift to something that you are actually better at,” she says.
“Perhaps this revolution, like all the ones before us, is just helping to reflect and rethink what our best talents are and to refocus on that.”
[Looking back] we know that the printing press replaced all those scribes, we know that the internet killed off so many video stores, now we are probably pondering what is going to happen to the doctors, media agencies, financial advisors and other professionals.”
Yet, while the research giant, Gartner, predicts that we will lose about 1.2-million jobs to AI, it also predicts that about 2.3-million new jobs will be created. The key to remaining employable goes back to that old Darwinian phrase: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent but the ones most responsive to change.”
As far as the media industry is concerned Ané Honiball, GM of Ads24 summed it up: “When visiting the newsroom of The Sun, in London, the managing editor explained to us how they make use of AI to track what readers want to see. And, believe me, at that stage [in the height of Brexit negotiations] none of it was Brexit. But, because the editor plays an educational role, they had to often override the algorithm to make sure that they did publish articles on Brexit.
“For me, this is a great example of how machines gather data, but only once we make that data into information, and we make sense of it all, can we as humans make better decisions.”
Watch the full video here: