By Pinky Kekana
Mr Abe Wakama the CEO at IT News Africa; thank you for welcoming us with such grace. Mr Tawanda Chatikobo our event chair today but to most of us he is known as the Digital Head at Nedbank Insurance.
I am deeply humbled to be part of this gathering. It is a gathering that aligns the present with the future. We all know that our success is dependent on the actions we take today.
If this great country is to realize its full potential, increase its economic growth, reduce inequality exponentially and radically improve service delivery we must embrace technology more fervently.
In other words, for South Africa and the African continent to transform, we must all cultivate this Digital explosion phase and harness it with the intention of improving the social relations in our country.
Digital technologies have an influence on how we consume knowledge, how businesses improve productivity, how government delivers services via e-government and how consumers get satisfaction for services rendered.
With this wave of digital technologies, we are also seeing the rise of digital corporations which create platforms for innovation and entrepreneurship.
These digital corporations enjoy great financial success and they also exert an enormous amount of social influence in society by virtue of the sheer magnitude of consumers at their disposal.
In some quarters it is estimated that the global digital economy accounts for more than 5 % of the GDP in G 20 countries which are around 4 trillion USD. In the case of South Africa, the digital economy could account for 2.5 % of the GDP.
Digital Industrial Revolution Commission
Government is fully alive to the efficiencies that arise from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To this end, President Ramaphosa has made it clear that he will establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technologies.
In response to this, the Department of Communications has already identified the digitization of community media as a critical component of developing and diversifying the media sector efficiently. As such, at the end of this month the Ministry of Communications will host a Community Media Summit. This is the first of its kind, the sole focus will be on how we position community media into the future.
Speaking of the future, I firmly believe that the future is female, because, women have been at the core of social developments in society. In the year where we celebrate the centenary of Mme Albertina Sisulu, we must heed the vision which women like her sought for our country.
To honour her legacy we need a society that takes early childhood development seriously. In whatever we do as a nation, whether in government or the private sector we need to embody the spirit of this great stalwart. This is a spirit of courage, fortitude, and endurance. This is what makes us South African.
For instance, we need to ensure that from an early age young girls are encouraged to experiment with ICT, instead of dolls. In essence, a four year old girl in rural Eastern Cape or Kwa-Zulu Natal must be encouraged to become a programmer or a computer scientist. A black female farmer in the Free State should be able to use the modern equipment to access markets for their produce. That’s the digital divide that we have to close.
It is a travesty of social justice that young black Africans interact with ICT tools for the first time at tertiary institutions.
Digital companies are also citizens
In the 21st Century, digital companies are also citizens, and so we have to redefine what citizenship means, for juristic persons. In the recent past firms, contributed to infrastructural development via brick and mortar structures and through the ownership of physical assets.
All of us seated in this room need to make sure that this digital explosion we are experiencing does not make the rich, richer and the poor, poorer.
History shows us that from the first industrial revolution right to the third the gap between the rich and the poor widened.
This comparison or differential is not just a class differential. When one considers the gender differential then we see that although society is progressing in some quarters we are not progressing in other quarters. We cannot measure progress through industrial development alone we also need to take into account socio-economic development.
We now live in a world with cyber-physical systems, where human beings and machines will merge. Every day we are seeing how digitization has radically changed the edifice of business.
We are all aware of the reality that: “The world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars. The world’s most popular media company, Facebook, creates no content. The world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock. And the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no property.”
No sector is immune from these technological disruptions, for instance, we have seen how Netflix has changed the broadcasting paradigm.
As a means to support the digitization of content from producers and creatives I am pleased to inform you that I will be launching an application that will assist content producers to distribute content in the country and beyond our borders. More details will follow in August, next month.
Technology and globalization are significantly shifting business models in all sectors, increasing the pace of change in job destruction and job creation—including new forms of work—as well as skills churn within existing jobs.
While some estimates have put the risk of automation as high as half of the current jobs, other research forecasts indicate a risk at a considerably lower value of 9% of today’s occupations.
The more conservative estimate takes into account specific job tasks within occupations that, even when not automatable, will go through significant change. On average, a third of the skillsets required to perform today’s jobs will be wholly new by 2020.
Our education Systems Remain Static
Our education and training systems, have remained largely static and under-invested in for decades. These systems are largely inadequate for these new needs of the digital economy.
Some studies suggest that 65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist and for which their education will fail to prepare them, exacerbating skills shortages and unemployment in the future workforce.
According to research, poorly developed adult training and skilling systems in most economies delay the speed of adjustment to the new context for the currently active workforce of 3 billion people on the globe.
Furthermore, outdated but prevailing cultural norms and institutional inertia create roadblocks particularly when it comes to gender. Despite rising levels of education, women and people with disabilities continue to be under-represented in the paid workforce—especially in high potential sectors and high-status jobs. The higher you go the fewer women you see.
The latest data from the World Economic Forum shows us that on average globally, women have less than two-thirds of the economic opportunity than men, and the rate of progress is stalling, with current forecasts to economic parity at 170 years.
If we are alive to these issues, we must act now, by using this Thuma Mina moment as an impetus for tackling long overdue reform on education, gender and work. We not only have an opportunity to stem the flow of negative trends but to accelerate positive ones and create an environment in which all South Africans can live up to their full potential.
All of us should be preoccupied with preparations for the President’s Digital Industrial Revolution Commission and we should also prepare ourselves to answer the following questions:
- What are the key features of a future-ready education system?
- What are the key adaptation strategies for managing the
transition to a new world of work?
- What are the key features of a digital economy?
I urge all of you to prepare the current and future workforce in your organisation’s for the digital economy by investing in digital literacy and ICT skills. It is our responsibility to position our employees to be competitive in the job market.
I have no doubt that if we use this wave of digital transformation to address the challenges in health; education and other sectors. Nelson Mandela & Albertina Sisulu sacrifices and tribulations will not be in vain.
Ladies and Gentlemen let us use the Fourth Industrial Revolution to drive socio-economic change, the time is now, a prosperous South Africa needs all of us government and the private sector to move in sync.
I thank you.
Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana was speaking at the Digital Transformation Congress, organised by the IT News Africa at Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand this week.
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