Like China, SA must collect and use more data - minister

The Department of Science and Technology will work hard to ensure that it comes up with policies to enable South Africa to reap the benefits of technology, while addressing the dangers technologies can bring, Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said on Tuesday.

She was the keynote speaker at Africa Tech Week which is hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the City of Cape Town and Topco Media.

“We must ensure that innovation contributes positively to the economy of SA,” she said.

The minister said it is clear that data will be the fuel of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

At the same time, she pointed out that that unlike fuel, data can be re-used again and again – “even a thousand years from now”.

“With this in mind, the question we need to ask is whether we as South Africa and Africa are sufficiently collecting data,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.

“We must look at what we are investing in our country to respond to the emergence of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

Look to China

She said China, for instance, has been gathering a large amount of data to put to use.

“In the age of implementation data is the core. This phase of artificial intelligence will also see the transition to the age of data,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.

 “This will be to China’s advantage because they have been gathering a lot of data and have all the ingredients to dominate in the age of artificial intelligence.”

She said she would like to see South Africa not only collect more data, but also to look at how the data can be used for economic beneficiation.

Kubayi-Ngubane acknowledged that a lot more needs to be done in this regard in SA.

“One of our biggest concerns is around the regulation of technology associated with the 4th Industrial Revolution. Technology is rapidly changing the landscape and my concern is – and it should concern all of us – what must we do to avoid the cost associated with these technology disruptions,” she said.

That is why the department has commissioned research to ensure that SA can take advantage of the 4th industrial Revolution, she added. 

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