The launch of South Africa’s first ‘digital economy’ summit, endorsed by Cabinet, was announced at the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Hub by the minister of telecommunications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who delivered the keynote address. The summit is due to take place at the end of June 2019.
“As we unpack the critical components of 4IR (the Fourth Industrial Revolution), it is important that people are placed at the centre of the conversation. As government, this is woven into all our 4IR interventions, and as such, we have been deliberate in seeking collaborative efforts that build a capable 4IR army. In the same breath, we must ensure that we create and own solutions that respond to our unique requirements as a country. Lastly, it is imperative that all sectors find expression in the 4IR conversation,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Wits University is a founding partner of 4IRSA, a partnership that aims to stimulate and facilitate an inclusive national dialogue to shape a coherent national response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa. It aims to complement and support other national activities relating to the 4IR, most notably the Presidential Commission on the 4IR.
“We need to work across sectors to develop the technology required for us to leapfrog across eons of poverty, unemployment and inequality, and in so doing create a new world order that prioritises humanity before profits and power,” stated Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib. “Whilst it is important to address the challenges of our past, it is equally important that we prepare for a collective and common digital and technological future so that we can determine how it will impact on us as a society.”
The 4IRSA partnership was founded by the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and Fort Hare, with Deloitte Africa joining as a facilitation and knowledge partner and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services as the public sector partner. As the initiative grows, it will include more participation from government, labour, business, civil society and researchers.
“The 4IRSA partnership is really important because it is a spontaneous and growing alliance between enthusiastic and concerned partners in industry, academia and government, together with social actors and citizens, who are committed to working together to develop a coherent, inclusive national response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa,” said Professor Brian Armstrong, who is the secretary to 4IRSA and professor of digital business at the Wits Business School.
On show at the launch were some of the technologies associated with 4IR, such as a 3D printer printing the 4IRSA logo, a robot crane made from drone recycled material, and a hydroponic garden. The launch took place at Johannesburg’s Tshimologong Precinct. Run by Wits University, Tshimologong, which means ‘new beginnings’ in Setswana, is an incubation hub for digital entrepreneurs, the commercialisation of research, and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth.
The universities of Johannesburg and Fort Hare are also focusing research attention on 4IR, with a number of different projects and courses. Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg, said: “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.
“The consequence of this change is that the world of work is shrinking. Economic inequality will also increase, which will result in social instability. This will in turn undermine democracy. Our staff and our students have a critical role to play in shaping as well as in responding to the significant and sweeping changes to the current order and the way we work.”
For more information visit www.4irsa.org