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4IR in a South African context

by Hanli Goncalves | Managing Director |

Given South Africa’s seemingly repetitive pattern of being left a few steps behind the world’s most advanced countries, one has to ask the question: – how do we break this pattern?

Working closely within the 4IR space, it is easy to forget that many people still don’t understand what 4IR is, and how it impacts them in their little bubble of existence far from a bustling world of crypto currency, VR, and Alexa. But the reality is, whether you deal with technological advances daily in your job or not, it will affect every aspect of life as we know it.

South Africa, as with many 3rd world countries, has a unique blend of the latest technology and archaic amenities, which stand in sharp contrast to each other; a home may not have running water, but it has a satellite dish and the latest smart phones. How does one reconcile these discrepancies, and welcome a new era into a space which has not yet fully caught up on the previous two Industrial Revolutions?

For this to happen, our approach to education must change. Finland recently stopped giving their children homework and the results were remarkable. Children were more focused during school hours and their grades improved.

How can we expect to move forward into this limitless world of innovation when our education system is lagging behind? Youthful minds respond with the best results when they are excited – and why not? THIS is the most exciting time in human history, and we should treat it as such. We need to ignite a sense of excitement and passion in the hearts and minds of our future leaders and then equip educators to turn that excitement into a reality.

We must also not dwell too much on the missed opportunities, but rather find a way to utilise advancements and make them our own. Technology can be used to fast track and circumvent inequality within communities: today one device replaces a multitude of others we used in the past; so even if the technology is costly for that one device, buying multiple other devices would be more costly.

App development means that people have access to information and help they previously were not able to acquire. Local app developers are finding innovative ways to add quality to life, make the daily grind easier, safer and more cost effective with Apps like Namola, Khwela, and Snapscan.

Others are looking at local problems and using technology to solve them in a more cost-effective manner in industry; the Aerobotics drone system used in agriculture is one such example. In the past, farmers would need more costly equipment to achieve the same outcome as they are able to today with a few drones and a laptop. The mining industry is utilising autonomous vehicles, automated drilling and boring systems, drones and smart sensors to not only reduce the cost of procedure, but also make the industry safer and more efficient.

Doctors in outlying areas are using 4IR technology to diagnose patients who do not have access to the latest equipment, quickly and efficiently, saving many lives that would previously have been lost. This type of technology has made the world significantly smaller, opening doors to specialist advice and mentorship across thousands of miles; granting those who wish to further their knowledge or perfect a procedure the opportunity to learn form the best, without travel and incurring costs.

However far behind we perceive ourselves to be, with unlimited access to knowledge, we are only as far behind as our beliefs allow us to be. Africa, and South Africa, are finding our own unique solutions and will continue to do so, as long as we are able to ignite that spark of excitement within our youth.

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