Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has announced the release of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Commission Report for public consumption.
This comes after cabinet last month approved the report, which was handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa in August. Ramaphosa appointed members of the 4IR Commission in 2019.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said the report has “identified eight key priorities that are important for the country to focus on, both for government and the private sector, as well as civil society”. Among the areas of focus highlighted in the report is investment in human capital.
“We have taken a conscious decision on not just the Covid-19 response but also … assisting South Africans to leverage the fourth Industrial Revolution. Ours is not just about technology but ours is about the people who must utilise the technology in order to change their social and economic status,” the minister said.
The second focus area is on establishing an artificial intelligence institute. The next component the report identified as key is the establishment of a platform for advanced manufacturing. “Among the things that we are talking about is the need to re-industrialise the electronics industry. We are talking of jobs that are being lost due to Covid-19, but we are saying as much as that may be, Covid-19 has helped us to confront the basis of the 4IR. What opportunities can we navigate and invest in, in order to change the situation of the country?”
The work of the department of communications & digital technologies, the minister said, is to coordinate strategies offered by sector role-players. “We can have a coordinated approach so that we can execute effectively, and we can monitor impact.”
The report, she said, highlighted the importance of government to secure data for it to be used commercially for, among others, innovation by small businesses. The commission recommended that government incentivise future industries, platforms and application technologies.
“In most cases in South Africa, we are consumers. We do not have tablets that are produced in this country, we do not TV sets that are produced in this country… We do not have software that is produced in this country,” said the minister. This, she said, was putting the country in a precarious predicament, especially in light of the US and China trade war. “It’s high time we invest in this … not only for our economic benefit as South Africa, but we can add our own character and also protect what we want to participate in.”