Artificial intelligence: Trial shows AI can result in up to five hours a week of 'beautiful productivity savings'

A trial by energy company Genesis has found workers using generative artificial intelligence can save up to five hours in lost productivity.

Employee Bhargavi Kotte has been using AI to summarise emails, "make them professional" and generate ideas.

Originally from India, English is a second language for Kotte.

"I went to a English medium school, so I've learnt English, and, all my subjects were in English as well," Kotte said.

"However, the way the written English was taught was quite different to the way it is done over here, especially the structure for essays or emails and the tone of the language."

Genesis is one of five Kiwi companies trialling Microsoft's version of generative AI which is called Copilot.

The project lead is general manager for future energy Steph Creasy. She said 300 workers throughout the country have been trialling the AI tool.

"The trick with all of these technology things is will people use that? How are they going to use it? How do you encourage them to use it? And make sure that they're getting the most out of it."

The trial has been underway since September last year and Genesis is happy with the results.

"Overwhelmingly we're seeing that about 70 percent of the cohort that we've got, believes that it's saving them between one and five hours per week in terms of time and effort. So that's a beautiful productivity saving."

The results were presented to Microsoft's AI Roadshow in Auckland on Friday where Microsoft CEO Vanessa Sorenson called on businesses to embrace AI or be left behind.

"I think I remember someone actually recently said 'oh, you know, I'm not going to let my kids to use it'," she said.

"Well, that's like saying don't drink water. It's already out there. So how do you now embrace it? And I think that's the call to action, especially for New Zealand businesses."

Microsoft already plays a big part in New Zealander's digital lives by hosting personal data like health records from Te Whatu Ora on its Azure cloud servers.

That role is about to become much bigger when the company's New North data centres being built in Auckland come online later this year.

"Everything is in the cloud. This is now about to take it to the next level. This is about visualising our bank customers being able to store the banking core systems in Azure cloud," said Sorenson.

In the United States, Microsoft has recently been criticised for its "lax security" in a report by the US Department of Homeland Security. It investigated how Chinese spies were allowed to hack into the emails of high-level US government officials.

However, Sorenson told Newshub that New Zealanders can be reassured their data is safe.

"We are building the most resilient, facility in New Zealand. It is the size and scope of what we're building globally."  

Sorenson also said she believes AI will be an opportunity for New Zealanders to upskill and for the country to become more productive.

"We're actually Kiwi innovators. We want to get on with the creative stuff, not the mundane stuff."