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Business and security applications drive AI investment in Middle East and Africa

Business and security applications drive AI investment in Middle East and Africa
In the Middle East and Africa (MEA), the three most popular artificial intelligence (AI) use cases are automated customer service agents, automated threat intelligence and prevention systems, and fraud analysis and investigation, according to International Data Corporation (IDC)
The three use cases will account for a combined 31.4% of AI investment across MEA in 2019. Also, the use cases are expected to retain their positions until 2022, according to the global technology research and consulting firm. Spending on automated customer service agents is expected to grow the fastest at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8%.
The MEA region shows great interest in AI, the related spending of which is forecast to grow 42.5% year-on-year, reaching US$290 million in 2019, according to IDC. In the years followed, AI investment in the region is on track to increase at a CAGR of 22.2% reaching US$530 million in 2022.
IDC's research shows that the top three industries in terms of AI investment in 2019 will be banking, manufacturing and retail. These industries will remain the top three through 2022.
Abhijit Akerkar, head of Applied Sciences for Business Integration at Lloyds Banking, said “AI will help us understand what our customers truly want, and that’s the starting point for improving the customer experience,” in an interview with NextGen Banking London.
Insights can be drawn, for example, when customers make a lot of calls to the call centers, when they are not opening marketing emails, and when they are using the products only in certain part of the country. AI can help with diagnostics in these areas, Akerkar said.
According to an extensive IDC survey conducted earlier this year among CIOs from across the Middle East, the top five drivers fueling demand for AI systems are the desire to improve customer support, augment marketing activities, boost overall efficiency, enhance the quality of products and services, and drive sales.
"Spending on AI in the MEA region this year is set to almost double from where it stood in 2017, which reflects the huge growth in interest we have seen around this technology over the last 18 months," says Jyoti Lalchandani, IDC's group vice president and managing director for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa.

Improving business processes

AI is integral to improving business processes, according to Lalchandani. "Investments in artificial intelligence are being driven by the promise, opportunity, and excitement of a new wave of automation that not only drives inefficiency out of processes but also changes how people interact with the digital world around them.”
“The use of AI-based automation and the changing relationship between employees and increasingly intelligent machines will drive opportunities to evaluate and enhance existing business processes in ways that have not been seen since the early 1990s," Lalchandani explains.

AI in business software

AI and machine learning have a broad range of applications, ranging “from ERP and manufacturing software to content management, collaboration and user productivity,” said David Schubmehl, research director for IDC's Artificial Intelligence Software.
Software and applications vendors are leveraging the new technologies to provide benefits to their customers, improving ROI and achieving cost savings.
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are moving into the mainstream of software development,” Schubmehl said, adding that almost all software will incorporate some kind of AI or ML technologies before the end of the decade.

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