The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is set to have a dramatic impact on all aspects of our lives. How aware, prepared and enabled is South Africa to handle everything this exciting technological era has to offer? In an attempt to answer some of these questions, the Kagiso Trust conducted a research study to explore citizen awareness around the fourth industrial revolution and its potential impact on South African society. Some of the key findings are outlined below:
- Around half of the respondents believe that 4IR will have a societal impact.
- Two out of five of the respondents believe that the 4IR won’t create any new jobs.
- In fact, over half of the respondents expect large-scale job losses as a result.
- Only a quarter of respondents believe that 4IR will improve societal equality.
- On a positive note, a third of the respondents believe the 4IR will improve service delivery.
If anything, these research findings highlight that the fourth industrial revolution isn’t only about the technology world; it will affect a range of industries and is set to transform society as a whole.
The 4IRSA is a platform that aims to create a space where people can have comprehensive conversations and shape South Africa’s 4IR strategy. Driven by leading research and academic institutions, 4IRSA brings together government, the public sector and private businesses to develop a national response to the fourth industrial revolution. The initiative has a strong focus education, which has been identified as a critical component in the successful response to, and implementation of, 4IR.
‘’Industry 4.0, as the 4IR is also known, is changing the world of work, because artificially intelligent machines now perform tasks that were traditionally performed by human beings,” explains UJ vice chancellor and principal, professor Tshilidzi Marwala. The consequence of these changes mean that the world of work is shrinking, economic inequality and social instability are on the increase. In response to the 4IR, professor Marwala believes that everyone must expand their knowledge and learn multidisciplinary subjects so that they can make sense of how technology will intertwine with human and social science.
As deputy chair of the 30-member Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he is part of the team being asked to come up with strategies, develop policies and implement action plans that seek to position South Africa as a competitive player in the digital revolution.
In line with the focus on education outlined above, a lack of skills can hamper 4IR success. This is concerning when you consider that South Africa ranked 49th out of 63 economies in the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking in 2018. This means that we have a lot of work to do if we want to produce the high-end information and communication technology (ICT) professionals we will need and at the scale we will need them.
While the exact time frame for the 4IR is unknown, Accenture expects that by 2026, it will unlock as much as R1.4 trillion in value for South Africa across agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, and financial services. Are you making the most of the trend? If not, our monthly newsletter brings together all the innovation and technology insights you need to stay ahead of your competitors. Subscribe below.