SA: Building a capable 4IR army

Government is committed to a skills revolution that will ensure that South Africa has the human capital required in the digital economy, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

 “…We are introducing subjects such as coding and data analytics at primary school level to prepare our people for the jobs of the future,” the President said.

Addressing the inaugural Digital Economy Summit in Midrand on Friday, President Ramaphosa said government has committed to train one million young people in data science and related skills by 2030.

In an effort to build a capable Fourth Industrial Army, Gauteng is, through the Tshepo One Million Programme, providing skills in data science, digital content, 3D printing, cyber security, drone piloting, software development as well as cloud computing to young people.

The skills are being provided through various partnerships government has with Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA).

“With these technological innovations, we will develop systems to improve our resources and efficiencies in various sectors such as health, utilities, crime prevention, education, transport and others to better give service delivery to our people.

“We have also committed ourselves to providing the infrastructure, including spectrum, which will enable our digital ascendency and bring benefits to all sectors of our economy,” the President said.

Through various support programmes such as the South African Research Chairs Initiative and other targeted human capital and development initiatives, the Department of Science and Innovation is building essential capability in all technology areas underpinning the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

These include programmes in data science, analytics, additives manufacturing, artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum technologies.

Earlier this year, the President appointed 30 members of the Presidential Commission on the 4IR to assist government in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital revolution and to identify relevant policies, strategies and action plans that will position South Africa as a competitive global player.

“As government, working with all sectors of society, we have set ourselves the task to pioneer new technologies and to take quantum leaps towards the economies of the future and to drastically improve our production levels.

“These quantum leaps can be made real through the 4IR, whose programmatic implementation is led by the Presidential Commission on the 4IR,” the President said.

The commission consists of 30 members from all spheres of society to ensure that all sectors will be able to contribute to transformation in the country.

The report on the outcomes of the summit will be presented to the commission.

Embracing 4IR

The President said in the next 10 years, South Africa must focus on transformation in order to realise the seven priorities he announced in his State of the Nation Address.

These include economic transformation and job creation; education, skills and health; consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services; spatial integration, human settlements and local government; social cohesion and safe communities; building a capable, ethical and developmental State and a better Africa and world.

“4IR can help us to advance the priorities that we have set for ourselves to speed up transformation and to ensure that it is sustainable

“As we look at the seven priorities through the prism of the 4IR, we can imagine and see a future and more importantly, work on a future and act on a future that will create jobs through the 4IR,” he said.

President Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to focus on new technologies that will revolutionise the world.

“The digital revolution is an opportunity to build an entrepreneurial State where government’s own appetite for risk and innovation inspires large scale entrepreneurship, where small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to find fertile ground to succeed and also unlock economic potential,” the President said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said his province is determined to play its part as the economic engine of South Africa and industrial, technological and financial hub of Sub-Saharan.

“We are the first provincial government to set up a Department of e-Government in our country as part of our drive to be a smart, innovation-driven, knowledge-based and digital economy.

“We have invested significant resources in the rollout of broadband to peripheral and deprived communities in Gauteng as part of the modernisation of our economy to address the danger of digital exclusion, digital poverty and digital inequality,” Makhura said.

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said government has, through its policies and legislative instruments, pushed the boundaries and managed to transform the apartheid telecommunication sector into a world class fundamental pillar of the emerging digital economy.

“Going forward, we will finalise the review key policy frameworks such as the Electronic Communications Amendment (ECA) Bill in order to make them responsive and adaptive to 4IR.

“Further, we will soon issue a policy directive to enable the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to license high demand spectrum,” the Minister said.

The summit was hosted by the 4th Industrial Revolution South Africa partnership (4IRSA), an alliance between partners from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society.