The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises a better world through digitisation of education

4IR Production Training Cells at the CSIR's Master Learning Factory. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

4IR Production Training Cells at the CSIR's Master Learning Factory. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 19, 2023


By Matome Chiloane

In an interview entitled “The Great Decoupling”, John McAfee, a technology pioneer once suggested: “Digital technologies are doing for human brainpower what the steam engine and related technologies did for human muscle power during the Industrial Revolution? They’re allowing us to overcome many limitations rapidly and to open up new frontiers with unprecedented speed.”

Historically in the era of the Industrial Revolution was the First Machine Age, and Electricity the Second, then Electronics was the Third, and the Internet as platform the Fourth.

Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, wrote the underlying paper on what he calls “The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Amongothers, he said: “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.”


McAfee, an American who founded a global computer security software company and Schwab, are spot on. In this era of the internet called 4IR the pace of automation is increasing through, for example, the advent of driverless cars, pilotless drones and automated retail systems like Automatic Teller Machines, card payments by phone – the tap phenomena – receiving payment on the phone and other revolutions.

Indeed, what distinguishes the 4IR front from the previous three industrial revolutions is, among other things, the computing power and reach of ongoing technological breakthroughs which have no precedent.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises a better world made possible through fresh advances in digital technologies and the progressive digitalisation of education and society.

Indeed, in this 4IR era, the growth of information technology (IT) and Information Communication Technology (ICT) has had a profound influence on education.

Indeed, the field of education has been affected by ICTs, which have undoubtedly affected teaching and learning.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the social and economic power and presence of Big Tech companies, along with their big data products. How we live, work, and interact with each other continues to evolve in ways that require an audience that is alive to both opportunities and risks associated with the digital revolution.

That is why as the technologies that help us record, store, process, retrieve, transfer, and receive information, we at the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), have increased coverage by enabling access to governmental services, especially the online registration process.

ICTs such as online registration have the potential to accelerate, enrich, and deepen, motivate and accelerate sharpen engagement between learners, their parents, guardians and school administrators and to help them relate with school experience as well help enhance school administration.


Computers and other ICT facilities enhance efficiency. Here is the efficiency that the online registration is being to support parents and guardians of Gauteng learners:

– Convenience – Online registration can be done at one’s home or office and at the time of one’s choosing. Depending on the platform, one may be able to pause and resume later at your bookmarked spot;

– No travel, no hassle, no expense;

– Online registration is available 24/7;

– Because of technology, gatekeepers are bypassed and

– Less time away from work and/or family.


As a country and province, we need to use the online registration process as a learning experience to be ready for the transformational promise of 4IR in cyber-physical systems that will combine different digital technologies and integrate them within the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

For example, in 2015, the Schwab’s WEF conducted a survey of 800 technology executives and experts from the ICT sector to identify the technologies we can expect in 2025. WEF says the survey provides useful insights into the kind of digital future the ICT sector is building toward. These corporate leaders identified a total of 21 technological advancements that were either ready for deployment or would be deployed by 2030. Among the most popular were:

 “Ten percent of people wearing clothes connected to the internet,” chosen by 91.2% of the respondents;

 “The first robotic pharmacist chosen by 86.5% of the respondents;

 “The first 3D-printed car in production,” chosen by 84.1% of the respondents;

 “Five percent of consumer products printed in 3D,” chosen by 81.1% of the respondents;

 “Ninety percent of the population with regular access to the Internet,” chosen by 78.8% of the respondents;

 “Driverless cars equalling 10% of all cars on American roads,” chosen by 76.4% of the respondents;

 “The first transplant of a 3-D printed liver,” chosen by 76.4% of the respondents and

 “Over 50% of Internet traffic to homes for appliances and devices,” chosen by 69.9% of the respondents.

Through education, the primary focus of 4IR is on opportunities to improve the economies of our Rainbow Nation.


Central to the GDE’s vision are the twin polities of “e-governance” and “e-education” which the provincial government has propelled to the forefront of the province’s service delivery initiatives.

The benefits of IT and ICT include service delivery initiatives such as safe drinking water, sanitation, affordable energy, efficient transportation, a secure food supply, public healthcare as we will soon welcome the National Health Insurance, quality education, and access to ICTs and mobile communication infrastructures.

I am glad that despite some teething challenges sometimes, everyone realises and embraces the benefits of this new process which closes on July 21.

There is acceptance that 4IR and digital technologies promises a better world through progressive digitalisation of education and society.

To apply, parents and guardians must visit and register to create unique login credentials for their application profile. For assistance with applying, applicants are welcome to contact our call centre on 080 000 0789 or WhatsApp us on 060 891 0361.

So the ability to access and use information for initiatives such as online registration of our Grade 1 and 8 learners in Gauteng is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for development.

Matome Chiloane is Gauteng Member of the Executive Committee for Education and Youth Development.

* The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.