Small businesses will be critical to South Africa in the 4th industrial revolution while access to information will revolutionize education.
This was highlighted at an insightful panel discussion in Midrand on Thursday (5 July). The topic debated was: “Is South Africa Ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?”
Panel speakers included Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall’Omo, CSIR Research and Development Strategy Manager Dr Daniel Visser, and SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana.
“There is no place to hide from connectivity. South Africa cannot step aside and not participate. We need to actively participate and shape South African industries to be more competitive in the global market,” said Dall’Omo.
Delegates heard that this revolution was not triggered by profitability. It is not an invention but a set of paradigms because of a technology revolution. One of the major impacts industry 4.0 will have on the country remains its effects on the country’s workforce and industry. But this technological revolution means some jobs of today will not be in existence in the near future and a completely new set of jobs will emerge. This means that there are possibilities to gain new skills so as to fulfill these exciting new roles.
“People need basic computer skills in this revolution. Africa must not lose out. By moving forward, there will be certain jobs that will be lost forever, but new ones created too.” Dr. Visser emphasized that South Africa needed to embrace innovation and become “people-centric”.
Delegates heard that people were scared of automation, artificial intelligence and the revolution had the potential to widen the gap between income groups.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
This revolution is underway and South Africa needs to embrace mobile connectivity, artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), which will make use of machines that will optimize the processing of goods, making manufacturing more efficient. The production and delivery of quality goods and services will become much faster and cost effective, and therefore requires an enabling environment.