The University of Johannesburg (UJ) held its inaugural TED Talk on Thursday, 22 August 2019 at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus Library and Information Centre. Various experts across different disciplines shared insights on opportunities and challenges for the current and future generations, with an aim to stimulate thinking on entrepreneurship, enrolling in multidisciplinary courses, and inspiring new ideas on innovation in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) era.
The University’s Library has partnered with TEDx to organise high-octane, community driven TED Talks to showcase the most fascinating thinkers and leaders. Going forward, this platform will bring together experts from various sectors for an exciting day of presentations and discussions that will inspire new ideas and opportunities across all disciplines. The first UJ TEDx Talk was themed, “Reimagining our present and redefining the future”.
The speakers included Prof Tshilidzi Marwala (Vice-Chancellor and Principal: UJ), Prof Maria Frahm-Arp (Executive Director: UJ Library), Dr Demilade Fayemiwo (Engineer and Water Conservation Consultant), Ms Boniswa Madikizela (Chartered Accountant and Senior Lecturer, Department of Accountancy, UJ), Mr Ebenhaezer Dibakwane (Two-time Savannah Comic’s Choice Award winning comedian and a SAFTA nominated writer), and Mr Thabo Molefe – popularly known as Tbo Touch (Radio Host and Entrepreneur).
Speaking on the benefits of 4IR, Prof Marwala said that rational decision-making in machines is crucial for the benefit of human beings. He maintained that although 4IR is going to make some jobs disappear, it is also going to change the nature of jobs people know now, and different new jobs will emerge. Prof Marwala added that in order for the current and upcoming graduates to be fit for future jobs, they needed to take courses that are multidisciplinary to skill themselves in different fields.
“The convergence of humans and machines is important. So, let us not be afraid of technology, we need to embrace it,” said Prof Marwala, adding that people need to study for what they are passionate about.
Prof Frahm-Arp also shared insights on how the use of technology in the University’s Library has helped library staff improve their customer care service when serving students. “Our staff can now shelve books faster and better, and also help students find books at a touch of a button. We see this 4IR as a ‘information revolution’ – this means that with the information accessible via our digital devices, we are able to solve problems by being creative and choosing our own pathways to learn,” said Prof Frahm-Arp.
Dr Fayemiwo highlighted the importance of empowering women in career fields that are male dominated. She said that there is only 29.1% of female scientists in fulltime and part-time jobs. “Institutions that don’t train their female professionals perpetuate the narrative that women occupy executive positions because of affirmative action. Also, institutions have to confront a culture of harassment in their spaces. A woman can be successful scientist whether she is married or not,” said Dr Fayemiwo, citing her difficult journey as a postgraduate student in the sciences.
Madikizela, who is a qualified Chartered Accountant, said that education is important for changing people’s livelihoods and families. She said that while 4IR was important, “it is not about the technological tools it offers to people, it is the belief systems that people have to employ that drives people to achieve their goals,” she said.
Dibakwane cited the social and class differences among the South African citizens, saying that the inequalities that exist prohibit certain race groups from a fair economic participation.
Tbo Touch spoke about the challenges that South African entrepreneurs endure due to not owning and controlling the value chain. “With the buying power black people have, we still can’t control the economic power. Our economy is run from the back end. The celebrities that are seen as owning brands in South Africa benefit less from the value chain because they do not own the means of production,” said Tbo Touch.
He added that if South Africans were to emerge out of the economic problems, leaders should not use the word “transformation” loosely. “We should confront the policies, we cannot afford to have one sector deciding what happens to us,” he said.