The world is being disrupted, one megabyte at a time. We are 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.
But have we thought about the real implications of this revolution?
As a sceptic, I never believed artificial intelligence, robotics and self-driven vehicles would become a reality in my lifetime. But they’re here.
As Africa Tech Week rightfully pointed out: “A lot can happen in a year. The world may look very different by the end of 2018 than it does now.”
It’s been predicted that by 2050, 1.4billion people will be living in African cities. Cities need to swiftly evolve to become smarter by embracing the power of intelligent technology. Therefore, the theme for this year’s SA Innovation Summit was “Africa, our time has come”.
The City has been hard at work to prepare for this revolution. The Broadband Project is delivering a high-speed, high-capacity municipal telecommunications network, called the “Metro Area Network”, which will extend throughout the greater metro area. This has been designed primarily to meet the needs of the City, and to provide services to the public and business. We have installed 750km of optic fibre cabling in the metro, connected 31 switching facilities, 382 City buildings and 86 private buildings, at a cost of R1.3billion since 2009. We are doing as much as we can, but we need all other stakeholders to amplify these efforts.
The City is looking at tangible, on-the-ground initiatives being rolled out. The City donated 10 hi-tech desktop computers to the I-CAN facility in Elsies River to give even more young people access to the digital highway.
In a short space of time, 128 young people have acquired coding certificates through a Minecraft coding platform underwritten by Microsoft.
The City runs digital literacy programmes that incorporate computer basics, coding courses and LAN gaming, via the SmartCape programme.
The need is huge, but local government cannot do it all on its own.
Unemployed women in Mfuleni who have never accessed a computer asked to be included in the digital literacy programme.
Another group of phenomenal female entrepreneurs, who failed to secure formal employment, did not wait for hand-outs. But they lacked the digital knowledge and skill to take their businesses to the next level. A digital and entrepreneurship project taught them how to design their own business cards, flyers and website. Today they’re advertising their business online and on social media.
The City’s Open Data Portal - promoting broader social and economic benefits - is now a source for hackathons, data quests and data challenges. It was amazing to see young people developing apps within a short time.
There are numerous such stories - but I again stress that business and governments must start collaborating further with a renewed urgency.
Young people are fearless with all things digital, but the moms and grannies of Mfuleni have bucked this trend and want to be a part of the digital revolution.
Those who have gained the most from the 4th Industrial Revolution have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world. But the harsh reality is that the majority of residents cannot afford access.
With that in mind, I believe the way we tackle socio-economic issues in communities must be reviewed. We are developing the next-generation township framework model that combines digital technologies and service delivery in an integrated manner to, cost-effectively, achieve improvement in GDP growth, digital literacy and sustainable job creation.
Many organisations fear disruption; others realise the many opportunities disruptive technologies, processes and social norms present.
Councillor Raelene Arendse, mayoral committee member for corporate services, is responsible for digital transformation.