President Cyril Ramaphosa Of South Africa announced on Friday that South Africans must embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and harness the opportunities it offers in order to eradicate the biggest challenges society faces.
The 4IR is the current global trend in which new technologies such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence are changing the way people live and work.
Ramaphosa said that it was the country’s collective ambition to harness opportunities offered by the digital revolution to enhancing economic transformation and job creation, improving education outcomes and skills revolution, and enhancing spatial integration, among others.
“Given what we know today about the potential beneficial impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must embrace this historic confluence of human insights and engagement, artificial intelligence and technology, to rise to the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he said.
“For the coming decade, this programme of transformation will be focused on growing the South Africa we want through the realisation of seven critical priorities that apply to all sectors of society.
“We should look at them through the prism of the 4IR and what the 4IR can enable us to do to address these seven priorities.”
Ramaphosa was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural 4th Industrial Revolution SA Digital Economy Summit in Midrand.
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.
The 4IRSA partnership seeks to develop an inclusive, coherent, national response to the 4IR for South Africa based on research and to complement and support other national activities relating to this.
Ramaphosa said that government had set itself the task to pioneer new technologies and taking quantum leaps towards the economies of the future, and to drastically improve production levels.
He said that the 30-member Presidential Commission on the 4IR he appointed earlier this year is expected to deliver a blueprint and plan to deal with the 4IR and determine areas of development in the short, medium and long-term.
“This plan comes with the embedded ambition of positioning South Africa not just as an adopter but a leader of 4IR in the world,” Ramaphosa said.
“This is doable indeed, considering that earlier this year our country was ranked by the Dell Digital Transformation Index to be among Top 10 countries leading the digital transformation change necessary to compete in the 21st century,” he said.
“The commission will explore and advise on infrastructure and resources, research, technology and innovation, economic and social impact, human capital and future of work among others.”
To showcase advances in technology, a first-of-its-kind, live, holographic projection of Ramaphosa’s address was transmitted to the Rustenburg Civic Centre in North West province