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“Humans have capabilities beyond algorithmic processing”

Andrew Moodley, Chief Cloud, Digital, and Marketing Officer at Axiz, shared his insights with BIZWEEK on the intersection of digital sustainability and technological advancement. With a focus on responsible investment and the ethical deployment of AI, Andrew Moodley addressed critical issues such as the environmental impact of technology, the philosophical and practical implications of AI, and Axiz’s strategic ambitions across Africa. His thoughtful responses highlighted the need for a balanced approach to technological progress, emphasizing the importance of sustainability and social responsibility. 

Andrew Moodley, Chief Cloud, Digital, and Marketing Officer at Axiz

“Navigating Digital Sustainability.” Why was this theme chosen for this year’s IT Summit?

Following last year’s focus on ESG sustainability, we observed significant changes. The world evolved rapidly due to advancements like GEN.AI and CHATGPT. Early in 2023, investors were very pro-ESG, but by mid-year, the focus had shifted away. We decided to merge the topics of digital technology and sustainability. This doesn’t mean past investments were poor; it’s about understanding the current landscape. The convergence of technology has changed our worldview. Thus, we wanted to discuss AI, the big elephant in the room, and also revisit sustainability. AI forces us to rethink what sustainability means, because it can replace jobs, industries, and companies, altering everything about our daily lives. For me, that’s what real sustainability entails.


Back in 1998, the famous French psychoanalyst Daniel Sibony said something interesting about the relationship between man and machine. If humans create a machine that gets out of control, we will face the myth of the robot turning against us. Reflecting on that, and from what we heard this morning, do we have a safety net in place to ensure this doesn’t happen with AI?

If we had figured out that problem, we wouldn’t have humans out of control either. It’s humans who create these machines, and the safety net can’t be applied after the fact. You must unleash technology within confines and possibilities. It’s like a gun used for war, self-defence, or sport – it’s about productive use. We need to control technology consciously, like raising children. 

We aren’t neat machines. Humans have capabilities beyond algorithmic processing. Empathy, for instance, is a uniquely human trait. We must be conscious about deploying technology, making intelligent decisions rather than reacting without foresight. AI, like ESG investments, needs thoughtful deployment. Our former CTO, who passed away two years ago, believed AI is still in its infancy. We must design and deploy it responsibly, viewing it as augmentation to human capabilities rather than a replacement. The world is divided between those who fear AI will destroy us and those who believe it will augment humanity. The choice of how to deploy AI is crucial.


We don’t invest in green initiatives just because it’s trendy; we invest in what makes sense for us and generates the best returns


You mentioned, during your presentation, a dialogue between humans and machines. What happens when machines converse without human intervention?

That’s a great question. There’s an example of e-commerce pricing algorithms that started talking to each other, ultimately colluding to increase prices. The algorithms’ creators didn’t foresee this, highlighting the importance of deliberate design. Machines can make decisions without human intervention, but it’s essential to build moral and ethical considerations into these algorithms. Logical decisions aren’t always good decisions; machines need guardrails to ensure they operate within ethical boundaries.


How is it relevant for you to have this dialogue in Mauritius?

Initially, I wasn’t keen on returning to Mauritius, but the people here changed my mind. This island nation, with its forward-looking perspective, is ahead in the IT industry compared to South Africa. Our interactions here have been enlightening, offering new insights. We’re not just bringing the world to Mauritius; we’re learning from it. The honesty and openness of the people here are remarkable. They’re willing to share, explore, and seek help, fostering a collaborative environment. This experience has been refreshing, and it’s why I’ll keep coming back.


What are the continental ambitions of Axiz?

Axiz is a South African company, but we are transitioning to define ourselves as an African company. We’ve chosen Mauritius as the headquarters for our international expansion and will continue with this strategy. We aim to do business in Africa where it’s viable and responsible. We’re present in 12 countries, transact in 22, and our services reach 33 countries. Our goal is to be a truly African company, relevant to the continent while respecting local markets and cultures. We avoid over-investing in markets where our value is low. Our approach is to be sustainable and responsible, expanding thoughtfully rather than chasing quick profits.


How is sustainability impacting your business, given that it often requires additional investment?

We believe in responsible investment. We don’t invest in green initiatives just because it’s trendy; we invest in what makes sense for us and generates the best returns. For example, solar panels are an obvious investment for businesses due to abundant sunlight. We also balance our use of materials like plastic, ensuring recycling and responsible disposal. We live in an irrational world, so we make the best decisions for our circumstances rather than chasing utopian ideals.


Our primary focus is on social responsibility. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint significantly, and prioritize building a socially-responsible business. We protect our employees’ jobs, transforming slowly but responsibly. We increase our headcount and invest in technology while maintaining job security. Our goal is to find solutions that balance technological advancement with job preservation, demonstrating that it’s possible to be both innovative and responsible.

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