Fourth industrial revolution presidential commission hands over landmark report to Ramaphosa
Cape Town – As the Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) this afternoon handed over its report to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, the commission’s deputy, has urged South Africa not just to be users but also be builders of 4IR technologies to build the country’s economy.
Marwala was speaking to IOL shortly before joining an online meeting in which he presented the report alongside Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Ramaphosa appointed the 30-member commission last year. The Presidency said that this had been in a bid for it to assist the government to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution to help position South Africa as a competitive global player.
The report has been described as a “landmark” product of extensive research and multi-sectoral engagements held by the commissioners since their appointment by Ramaphosa last year.
Marwala said the report was centred around eight key recommendations, which include building human capacity in the area of the 4IR; establishing the National Artificial Intelligence Institute; creating the Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI); the establishment of a National Data Centre; and incentivising SMMEs for the adoption of 4IR technologies and the emergence of future industries and platforms.
Other key recommendations include the reviewing, amending or creating of policy and legislation; the seventh is to build 4IR infrastructure which integrates with existing economic and social infrastructure and to establish a 4IR strategy implementation coordination council in the presidency.
“The fourth industrial revolution is already here and we are seeing now how we have swiftly moved to online learning due to Covid-19 and many people are continuing to work online despite the fact is here.
“But now the question that we are trying to establish as the commission is to make sure that as South Africans we don’t just become users of these technologies but that we also become builders of these technologies so that we can be able to grow our economy,” Marwala said.
He said fears that the 4IR would result in a jobs bloodbath could be curbed by implementing the commission’s recommendation of investing human capacity through broadening manufacturing by making it competitive through AI and other 4IR technologies.
“We need to ensure that data is available because the saying goes in the fourth industrial revolution that ‘data is the new oil’.
“We have to ensure that our laws are adaptive to the 4IR, to ensure that companies such as Uber, Airbnb and other such platform companies can be brought into our tax regime, because if they operate in the cloud and don’t have an office in the country, then we lose revenue simply because our laws are not in line with the 4IR.
“We need to ensure that these do not just end up in libraries as documentation so, in other words, we need implementation, implementation, implementation,” Marwala said.
Marwala also said that the 4IR now presented a perfect opportunity to address challenges faced by the education sector by giving platforms to talented and innovative South Africans to come up with technological solutions to circumvent the challenges that have proved a stumbling block for the sector.