Ignore revolutionary technological advances at your own peril: President Ramaphosa

Ignore revolutionary technological advances at your own peril: President Ramaphosa


Publishing Date: 2/8/2019 9:00 AM

​As South Africans grapple with current and past challenges, it is important that they do so with their eyes firmly fixed on the future by embracing the challenges brought about by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

This was the message of President Cyril Ramaphosa when he delivered the State of the Nation Address in Parliament yesterday, 07 February 2019.  "The world we now inhabit is changing at a pace and in a manner that is unprecedented in human history. Revolutionary advances in technology are reshaping the way people work and live. They are transforming the way people relate to each other, the way societies function and the way they are governed," President Ramaphosa said.

He announced that he had appointed a Presidential Commission on the 4th industrial revolution to ensure that South Africa "effectively and with greater urgency harnesses technological change in pursuit of inclusive growth and social development."

Without revealing names, the president said eminent persons drawn from different sectors of society have been appointed to the Commission, which will serve as a national overarching advisory mechanism on digital transformation. It will identify and recommend policies, strategies and plans that will position South Africa as a global competitive player within the digital revolution space. 

The University of Johannesburg has positioned itself as a leading institution for the 4th industrial revolution in South Africa, on the continent and globally, with Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Marwala – himself a renowned 4IR expert – leading from the front.

Ramaphosa warned that should South Africans not adapt to the new technologies, they faced the grim prospect of being rendered irrelevant and the country facing stagnation.

"As a young nation, only 25 years into our democracy, we are faced with a stark choice. It is a choice between being overtaken by technological change or harnessing it to serve our developmental aspirations. It is a choice between entrenching inequality or creating shared prosperity through innovation. 

"Unless we adapt, unless we understand the nature of the profound change that is reshaping our world, and unless we readily embrace the opportunities it presents, the promise of our nation's birth will forever remain unfulfilled," President Ramaphosa said, citing "the devastating effects of global warming on our climate, with extreme weather conditions damaging livelihoods, communities and economies".  

"Today, we choose to be a nation that is reaching into the future. In doing so, we are building on a platform of extraordinary scientific achievement," he added.

The President outlined how his administration was responding to the new technological advances, starting at the primary and secondary education levels. To expand participation in the technical streams, he said, several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools. 

"In line with our Framework for Skills for a Changing World, we are expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence. Several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced, including technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences, and aquaponics," President Ramaphosa said.


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Frans Baleni (left) and UJ Vice-Chancellor Professor Marwala at the State of the Nation Address (SONA)