President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that unless women, the youth and small businesses were intrinsically involved in technological advancement, the Fourth Industrial Revolution would fail.
Ramaphosa made the remarks on Monday during his opening address at the International Telecoms Union (ITU) Telecom World Conference 2018 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.
The president said that without these “three pillars”, the world’s leap forward in technology-driven economies would not occur.
“The big companies will always look after themselves. Men will always look after themselves. We need to use these three pillars to enable technological advancement in every country in the world to gain traction if we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution. If anyone of these three pillars is not there, the fourth industrial revolution will definitely fail,” said Ramaphosa.
He said this year’s conference – the first ever to be held on African soil - “comes at a time when all nation states are considering ways to maximise the value of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, while mitigating its socio-economic threats, such as job losses.
“This is particularly critical in the developing world where countries still have not overcome the joblessness of the past revolutions. We have to deal with the Fourth Industrial Revolution while we also attend to the outstanding issues from the past,” said Ramaphosa.
He said South Africa was hosting the ITU Telecom World 2018 to showcase local inventions and capabilities as well as to collaborate with others to boost the digital economy.
“As we move deeper into the digital economy, it is becoming more and more necessary that we work together to maximize the value of the new, heightened technological innovations. Our economies are increasingly dependent on ICT, and this has been recognised across the sectors of the economy such as finance, transport, mining and other key industries that dominated the previous industrial revolutions.
“Government is working with industry to search for interventions to maximize the value of digital innovations. Key interventions include the accelerated rollout of broadband in areas that are generally seen as being economically not viable,” said Ramaphosa.
Penetration of 3G and 4G in South Africa stood at over 90% and 70% respectively, he said, while about 87% of households had access to mobile phones.
“Early this year, we announced that government will establish a commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to advise and help us to develop a comprehensive strategy and plan on this important issue of our times.
"This commission will be inclusive to ensure that all stakeholders such as labour, civil society, business, and academia are part of the evolution of our policies and strategies to ensure their buy in."
He said the commission would ensure the country was in a position to “seize the opportunities” of the rapid advances in information and communication technology.
“We are informed by research that investment in ICT has benefits such as higher productivity, lower costs, new economic opportunities, job creation, innovation, and increased trade. Information and communication technology also helps provide better services in health and education and strengthens social cohesion,“ said Ramaphosa.