On Thursday, 11 April 2019 the universities of Johannesburg (UJ), Witwatersrand (Wits) and Fort Hare (UFH), in partnership with Telkom, Deloitte and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) announced the launch of the inaugural 4IRSA Digital Economy Summit which will take place in June 2019.
The event which was hosted at the Tshimologong Innovation Precinct, Braamfontein 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.
High level panelists included: Professor Tshilidzi Marwala (Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg); Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (Minister of Communications, South Africa), 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; and Ms Riefdah Ajam (Deputy General Secretary, FEDUSA).
Said Prof Marwala: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about technology, however, what is happening right now is a convergence of technology and people. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, people are very important. We need to prioritise human and social sciences from a young age and ensure that we don’t just import technology- but create it ourselves. ”
Prof Marwala, Deputy Chair of the recently announced Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is tasked with assisting 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.
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams who delivered the keynote address 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 as announced on Tuesday, 09 April 2019.
The panel discussion explored 4IR in South Africa and the potential threats and opportunities that exist, with audience members emphasising the importance of job creation; labour union involvement; monetary investment in youth and SMMEs and the representation of the creative industry.
Beth Arendse, CEO of the SA Creative Industries Incubator and fellow 4IR Commissioner argued for a stronger focus on the creative industry.
“The creative industry needs to be heavily represented in the 4IR discussion. We need to skill people for creative thinking- from foundation phase to higher education.”
The 4IRSA partnership was founded in June 2018 in response to a public call to action by the CEO of the Telkom Group, Mr Sipho Maseko. The 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.
”Like the rest of the world, South Africa is changing before our very eyes. New devices, solutions and apps are introduced almost daily. This requires new skills and businesses, and impacts on how we interact with friends and family. This trend is irreversible,” said Mr Maseko.
South Africa’s Digital Economy Summit, endorsed by the Cabinet of the Republic of South Africa, will take place on 27 and 28 June 2019.