‘’Today is a gathering of visionaries and dreamers; people who have immersed themselves in the future and who understand the power of dreaming- and acting to turn those dreams into reality.’’
These were the sentiments shared by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa who delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Digital Economy Summit that took place on Friday 5 July 2019.
The event which was hosted at Gallagher Conference Centre in Johannesburg saw leaders from academia, government and industry gather in solidarity to explore how the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) could shape the future of South Africa. Some of the themes explored at the summit included: 4IR Opportunities for SA; The Future of Work & Jobs; Regulation of the Digital Economy; Skills & Teaching in the 4IR; and Artificial Intelligence: Frontiers in Applications & Ethics.
‘’As government, working with all sectors of society we have set ourselves the task to pioneer new technologies and take quantum leaps towards the economies of the future,’’ said President Ramaphosa.
‘’These quantum leaps can be made real through 4IR whose pragmatic implementation is led by our Presidential commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, whose Deputy Chairperson is UJ’s Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, an internationally acclaimed researcher in the discipline of Artificial Intelligence.’’
President Ramaphosa emphasised the need for partnerships and inclusivity, maintaining that government realised the importance of leading and escalating the 4IR conversation, hence the establishment of the Presidential Commission.
The Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as announced on Tuesday, 09 April 2019, is tasked with assisting the government to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution by identifying relevant policies, strategies and action plans that will position South Africa as a competitive global player.
High level guests at the the Digital Economy Summit included: Professor Tshilidzi Marwala (Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg); Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies), Mr Sipho Maseko (Group Chief Executive Officer, Telkom), Prof Adam Habib (Vice-Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand), Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, (Vice-Chancellor, University of Fort Hare); Gauteng Premier, Mr David Makhura; Keynote speaker, Dr George Friedman; and Mr Tao Jingwen, President of Huawei Africa.
Opening the summit, Gauteng Premier, Mr David Makhura said: ‘’Gauteng is at the cutting edge of South Africa’s efforts to be the continent’s hub of innovation, digital transformation and 4th Industrial Revolution. Our country must take a lead in ensuring we collectively harness the opportunities brought about by the 4th Industrial Revolution. We refuse to be left out or left behind. ‘’
His talk was followed by internationally recognised geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs Dr George Friedman, who provided a global view on the 4th Industrial Revolution and offered advice and words of caution for South Africa. ‘’We need a response to the digital era that addresses South Africa’s unique challenges, enables class mobility, utilises it’s low-cost labour while embracing the 4IR opportunities.”
‘’A vast part of the South African population is so impoverished that it won’t fully benefit from the 4IR. China took advantage of its low wage rate and in essence exported labour and now are one of the leaders of the 4IR. SA needs to do the same,’’ he maintained.
About the #4iRSA Partnership:
The 4IRSA Partnership (derived from a “Partnership for the 4th Industrial Revolution in South Africa”) is an alliance between the Department Of Telecommunications & Postal Services (DTPS), Telkom, and the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Fort Hare.
Its purpose is to stimulate and facilitate an inclusive national dialogue to shape a coherent national response to the 4th Industrial Revolution in South Africa. It aims to complement and support other national activities relating to the 4th IR, most notably the Presidential Commission on the 4th IR.
The 4IRSA partnership will explore the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the Economy and the new Digital Economy; Higher Education and the Future of Work; Inequality; Citizens; Society and the State; and other critical factors.