DURBAN - Connectedness is vital for the survival of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) said Alex Granger, global speaker and co-founder of human capital consultants Twice Blue.
Granger was speaking to provincial government leaders and delegates at the 4th Industrial Revolution business breakfast dialogue hosted by Ithala, in Durban recently.
"Wi-Fi should be a human right. There should not be this password protected. It should be free. We must be able to get into a bus and Wi-Fi must work, walk in the streets of Durban Wi-Fi must work. That connectedness is critical but, it means that government leaders have to forward thinking, discern what is coming and be willing to take the risk," he said.
Quoting the World Economic Forum’s 2018 outlook for jobs, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala said it was vital that business should pay attention to reskilling and up-skilling the workforce for the 4th industrial revolution. He said the 4th industrial revolution would bring success and conflict such as that already witnessed between meter taxis and Uber and it was crucial to prepare SMMEs to embrace technology.
"Whilst we will lose jobs and experience change other sectors will develop as supporting services and as businesses. People are developing innovative software and coming up with technological developments that can be applied," said the MEC.
Ithala was grappling to understand the implications of the 4th industrial revolution as it related to its position as a loan operator; a major player in the commercial property sector as well as how the organisation would remain relevant in providing broader banking services, said Pearl Bengu, Ithala Development Finance Corporation Group Chief Executive.
Megan Ngiba Chief Executive of Makhophila Training Academy, specialising in skills development, said there was a real fear that robots were going to be taking over jobs. "I am here to plea for a discussion around clear definitions in layman’s terms when defining the 4th industrial revolution, which we can use for training".
She emphasised that SMME’s wanted to be players in the new economy and asked government to please include them in policy development that related to them. She also asked government to assist in reducing the cost of data. “Data is very expensive. “So if I’m running a business in rural KZN and my main marketing is via social media platforms, how am I going to use these if data is so pricey? Can government assist us in ensuring that the environment and platforms are accessible?”
Nisaar Mohammed, Sector Specialist –Knowledge Economy at Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal said it was a myth that the state and government does not get involved in funding 4th industrial revolution developments. "Development Finance Institutions (DFI’s) should not underestimate their role in the funding of SMMEs in the 4th industrial revolution. Apple was once a SMME funded $500 000 by the US government. Without that there would not be an Apple. Throughout, the birth of the 4th industrial revolution it has been driven by DFI’s and the state," he said.
There is a very strong possibility that Africa can benefit from the 4th industrial revolution primarily on the back of SMMEs because these are driven by the youth who have agile minds and will begin to use and understand the technology and its language, he said.
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