Opinionista Pinky Kekana 29 March 2019

We all need to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Some cynics dismiss talk of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ as nothing more than another electioneering tactic. But the revolution is already upon us and South Africa is poised to be its leader on the African continent.

Of late, many have come under fire for the usage of the term Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in speeches, conversations and media interviews. There have been claims of it being a narrative chosen for electioneering and some have even created memes and have a comedic response to it with politicians being at the receiving end of the ridicule.

It’s not ideal, but it’s okay! It’s okay, simply because it means that we are talking about it. The country is in conversation.

The whole world is being faced with a rapid transition in respect of “The Fourth” – some countries started a while ago, some are starting now, or have recently started, and some are yet to start. This was evident at the 2019 World Economic Forum at Davos. We find ourselves somewhere in the middle, and with national elections looming, we have to review where we are as a country, both good and bad, and on what we have to focus. We are no different from any company or organisation in the world that has to take stock for every period and this has been raised as a key priority for our next period.

So, it is obviously not a South African thing about which we are jumping on the bandwagon. Think about it – if we only use it for electioneering, then post-election, we will find ourselves in a global “blackout”, and I’m not just referring to the electricity crisis our country faces at the moment, but 4IR-readiness as well, which is being monitored from a global perspective.

As a country that is seen as a leader of the most-talked-about continent in the world, we would never be able to just “talk”, we would have to “do”.

So, let’s “do”! But, more than that, we have the opportunity to be a leader in something about which the world will sit up and take notice. Critical changes are happening daily around us, both in SA and globally, whether it’s the way we power our cars, heat our homes or future-proof our industries. The world is moving so rapidly toward the intersection of technological and human capacities that we will find ourselves completely left behind if we don’t focus with complete strategic intention and delivery.

But we want to do more than just remain in the race – we want to find a niche where we can lead an aspect of it. As per the previous three revolutions, we live in unprecedented times, and the call for joining us to help our country through the next few years of rapid change, is now, to you. Elections aside, we have to win at this and South Africa – your time is NOW!

Have you thought about the relationship between human beings and machines, not just in the tech industry, but how it will impact our daily lives, even those of the most technologically challenged amongst us? As a country, we have to not only plan for the current and imminent future of our lived experiences, but also for the lived experiences in the far future as 4IR reaches its peak.

Like many other countries across the globe, there aren’t 4IR experts in government and as such, the road to the Fourth has already started, with the Presidency calling for nominations for experts and contributors to sit on a commission to guide us through this critical journey. All nominations were considered and the details of this commission and it’s contributors will be announced soon.

Watch this space.

Additionally, as we speak our government is busy creating a policy framework upon which our economy becomes technology-driven, an economy that demands and purchases technology solutions. Our education system and our science and technology policy systems will have to be reconfigured as the first set of priorities with the rest to follow, in order of priority, of course.

With everything, there are always positives and negatives and as we immerse ourselves in this 4IR, we must understand that there will be negatives, obviously, but it is our belief that we can ensure that the positives will far outweigh the negatives.

We have hope that the journey of the 4IR can lead to the destination of the societal breakthroughs we require. DM

Pinky Kekana is Deputy Minister of Communications.

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In other news...

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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