The winds of change have started to blow and the 4IR has swooped in. media update’s Nicole van Wyk explains the effect that the fourth industrial revolution will have on the African continent and its people. 

So, what is the 4IR? 

The 4IR is humanity coming together with digital technology to make working environments and lifestyles easier. The transformation will shift from humans depending on technology to do things to working hand-in-hand with tech and AI to achieve fast and accurate systems.

It incorporates scientific advancements, digital tech and mass production the first, second and third industrial revolutions brought forth. What sets this revolution apart from the rest is the fact that change is occurring at a rapid pace as opposed to making linear progress. 

We will see digital, biological and physical aspects merging to form technological advancements to improve the human experience. This means that digitisation and humanity will not be viewed in isolation but rather as dependants of each other to create a more progressive society. 

Our view of global development of countries and organisations will be affected by this revolution. Global leaders and innovative thinkers with have to meet to discuss policies to drive the 4IR forward for everyone without excluding people on the basis of their social and economic backgrounds. 

This revolution will fundamentally change the way our world works, and its

founding principles are inclusive — meaning that everyone who is exposed to the revolution should benefit from it.

 Access to resources for all is the end game.

The primary vision of the 4IR is to equip people with systems that will have a direct and positive impact on their lives.

Okay, hold up. How will this be accomplished? 

Let’s zoom in on Africa. The African continent is a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF). African leaders have a seat at a global table to discuss the continent’s role in driving the world forward. The establishment of this forum also allows world leaders to gauge the progress of everyone else and it holds policy makers accountable for ensuring that proposed action is implemented. 

Africans need to cultivate a culture that welcomes digitisation and learning how to embrace the change, as opposed to reverting to systems that take longer to get the job done but are in use due to the fear of the unknown. 

Understanding that, on the global front, a new norm is being established, African leaders need to keep up in order to compete at a global economic level. This process will involve investing in digitally upskilling people in order to keep up with the demands of fast technological progress. 

Work with technology to make it work for you!
The African continent can not solely rely on its commodities. The 4IR is people-centric, and so, innovation needs to be encouraged. So much so that thought-leaders with futuristic ideas should be given the opportunities and platforms to discuss ideas with like-minded individuals until it becomes the new norm. This new norm can provide a competitive ground for key industry players to get together and take the continent to new heights.  

Revolutionise African thinking

The African education model should see both private and public schooling sectors aligning to provide the same standard of education for future thought leaders. If students are encouraged to partake in progressive thinking from a young age, the transition to a digitised workplace will be easier and it will cut down on excessive training budgets to upskill those entering the workforce. 

The aim is to establish and maintain a steady pace that moves with the rest of the world. Africans will have to invest in programmes and resources that will be plugged back into society and the African economy. 

Digitisation is the way forward, but it is also important to note that African problems may hinder its progress. The first step is tackling fundamental issues that affect the continent such as poverty and inequality.

According to IT Web, South African has already begun its transition towards 4IR-readiness. The Department of Science and Technology has announced/plans to open an Affiliate Centre to prepare South Africa for the 4IR.

The centre will strengthen the Pan-African agenda and the return in investment will be a progressive African continent that will be equipped to not only confront problems brought on by the 4IR in an African context but also offer global solutions. 

Africa needs to put structures in place that will equip all members of society with analytical and technological skills to keep up with the speed at which the world is evolving. 

Beyond that, support is an important factor to be considered to ensure that skilled people are available to support and grow within their communities.

Do you think that the African 4IR narrative will be different to the rest of the world? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Technology and the Internet are not the only things that will affect the 4IR. Read our article to find out Why AI is key in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy