A new guide from the International Trade Centre explores how small businesses can use AI tools to more efficiently create content and promote their work while maintaining clients’ trust.

(Geneva) – Artificial intelligence (AI) in the workforce is akin to Aladdin’s genie – its power equal to its potential risks – with the ideal scenario being a human-led partnership between AI tools and the person using them, to strike a balance between efficiency and trust.

A new report by the International Trade Centre (ITC), Living with the Genie: Artificial Intelligence in Content Creation for Small Firms in Trade, finds that AI tools enable everyone in the workplace to publish content to promote business growth, including small firms in developing countries with limited time and resources. Business support organizations and educational institutions can also embrace AI tools to support small business growth. But there is a right way to do it.

‘Like all powerful tools, generative AI (GenAI) can be used in purposeful and constructive ways, but also in support of harmful and destructive intent, breeding lies and disinformation,’ said Vinton G. Cerf, a vice president of Google who is often called a ‘father of the internet’.

Developing countries concerned about AI for business

The report features results of one of the few global surveys on AI tools to support small businesses in developing countries. The December 2023 survey features views from 73 business support organizations in 39 countries – 35 of which were developing countries – on using AI in the workplace. More than half of those surveyed (52%) use ChatGPT and other AI tools. They seek guidance in today’s changed world of content creation and publishing, to support small enterprises to grow their businesses. Respondents called for caution, better training and verification to ensure accuracy and ethical use of AI-generated content.

The report highlights the risks of deepfakes, a type of AI used to create convincing image, audio and video hoaxes that erode business credibility and can even undermine national brands. Online news avatars and personality-driven chatbots can help or harm – depending on how they are used. The latest wave of text, image, audio and video tools embed bias, inaccuracy and intellectual property concerns along with their promised efficiencies. These trends affect content creation and promotion, as they undermine trust in information.

Four AI takeaways for small businesses in developing countries

Build trust in your brand. Focus on customer solutions with original content. For example, use AI to brainstorm ideas, research key players and customer needs but assess them with target users. Be factual, ethical and relevant. Researchers should examine datasets for bias, accuracy and potential time lags. Human reviewers should carefully review what goes into and comes out of AI-generated text, images, video and audio, and clarify when AI is used. Businesses can put human faces on the brand. For example, make a CEO personally available for regular interviews and virtual briefings, rather than use avatars.
Be inclusive in shaping AI company strategies by bringing together communicators, subject-matter experts, engineers, project managers, innovation experts, trainers and others who use AI tools in the workplace. Use a common set of editorial tools and ensure training for the most common editorial needs.
Understand how AI prompts can help or hurt your business. Work with national and regional business support organizations to master the queries that are directed to AI tools, to shape research used for business decisions.

Explore AI-related business opportunities in developing countries, by leaning into local context and local perspectives. For example, an AI tool for a ride-hailing app could let people choose to ride with a same-gender driver.

This report is issued in collaboration with Trade Finance Global, which has contributed to the report and is sharing it with its global online network of companies, financial institutions and policymakers.

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