We are living in the age of a revolution; industry 4.0 presents a historic opportunity for South African business to thrive.
Technology has moved beyond being a sector, rather it is a platform which is so seamlessly embedded in every aspect of our everyday lives that we hardly notice the rapid adoption of advanced technologies happening all around us.
Africa has always been a hotbed for innovation, last year Professor Mashudu Tshifularo made history as the first doctor to transplant 3D-printed bones for reconstructive middle ear implants at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
South Africa is also a world leader in the adoption of transformative technologies such as crypto currency. We are a nation that believes in the power of technology to drive change.
While we must acknowledge the challenges we face as a country – a legacy of corruption, a shrinking economy and an education deficit, to name a few – we must also recognise technology as a ubiquitous equaliser connecting people in new and revolutionary ways.
Revolutions are marketed by inventions not believed possible, and South African businesses need to take advantage of the fact that we are on the cusp of a new era.
For businesses to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution it will require dedication to building an ecosystem that enables effortless innovation.
You cannot do so without partnerships and we believe that a joint approach with our current partners, bolstered by new acquisitions, is what is needed to drive true value from a 5G ecosystem.
5G promises to be everything to everyone, it unlocks the promises of the digital revolution across sectors and its business applications are endless.
While we may not see genome sequencing hit the Eastern Cape or the mass deployment of nanotechnology in South Africa’s public healthcare facilities, we can look at practical applications that will undoubtedly make our healthcare systems more efficient.
We can also leverage lessons learnt in other parts of the world to cherry pick best practice, for example the National Health Insurance could build on the lessons of the UK’s National Health Service.
With favourable regulation and an appetite for innovation, there is nothing holding us back from piloting the smart cities of tomorrow, today.
Road accidents in South Africa are among the highest in the world and industry 4.0 opens an opportunity for smarter, safer solutions.
Potential efficiency gains for utilities and green technology are undeniably an option to explore and solve for our current power crisis and, beyond that, the crisis of our planet.
We are poised for a future where our fundamental industries will be revolutionised, from farming to mining, and it is imperative that we harness this innovation for our own good.
Traditional skills hang in the balance; technology advances in healthcare may eventually mean that you consult your general practitioner through a digital channel rather than face-to-face, or your lawyer provides you with a predictive and cheaper solution.
This means that we must look at our skills deficit as an opportunity. As automation takes over the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs, it allows us as Africans to bring to bear our natural inclination towards ubuntu to create a pool of new skills for a new age.
Industry 4.0 will require new skills, but not all of them will be necessarily specialised. In fact, only 10% of the population will require skills in artificial intelligence and coding.
What we do need is a broad knowledge of digital skills for people to be able to participate in the digital economy.
Of course none of this is possible without secure networks and security will be tantamount as the digital economy grows.
Safe and trusted end-to-end solutions are vital for the ecosystem to thrive.
If we want to keep our seat at the table as world-first innovators, we need to move the conversation beyond doubt and scepticism.
Transformative technologies such as facial recognition face issues of racial bias, and these are the conversations we should be leading as Africans.
We should be considering the General Data Protection Regulation from the onset in terms of managing our data to make sure that we get things right from the ground up.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and revolutions don’t happen overnight, but we know that industry 4.0 is happening now, and a strong foundation may well see South Africa leapfrog off lessons of the past to become a global leader of the future.
- Bogoshi is the chief executive of information and communications technology company BCX
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