Gauteng’s 4IR advisory panel in the works

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 02 Jul 2019
Gauteng premier David Makhura. [Photo source: GCIS]
Gauteng premier David Makhura. [Photo source: GCIS]

Similar to the Presidential fourth industrial revolution (4IR) commission, Gauteng also plans to appoint an advisory panel that will advise the provincial government on the digital revolution.

This was the word from premier David Makhura, delivering the Gauteng State of the Province Address (SOPA) to mark the official opening of the first term of the sixth legislature yesterday.

According to Makhura, this panel is to be appointed within the first 100 days, indicating the province refuses to be left out of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital age.

Investing in Internet connectivity will increase our GDP by 1.5%, improve service delivery to citizens, create new industries and provide new platforms for small businesses to integrate with the mainstream economy, he stated.

“Over several decades, we have been building a smart and techno-savvy Gauteng city region with an innovation ecosystem that includes the Gauteng Innovation Hub, public universities and research institutes, private sector centres of innovation and recently, eKasi Labs.

“In the coming years, we will expand the infrastructure and the offerings of the Gauteng Innovation Hub in order to revive there of growing it into Africa’s Silicon Valley that will drive the development of our digital economy.

“Our dream is that Gauteng should be a hub of fourth industrial revolution skills and a centre of excellence for digital economy breakthroughs such as artificial Intelligence, crypto currency and big data.”

Avoiding talkshops

The brainchild of president Cyril Ramaphosa, the Presidential 4IR commission was in the making for more than a year.

The commission is mandated to advise government on 4IR policies, develop a framework for implementation of a multi-sectoral 4IR strategy; and coordinate, monitor and evaluate multi-sectoral initiatives that will position South Africa as a globally competitive player in 4IR.

Since taking office in 2018, Ramaphosa and his administration have dedicated attention to Industry 4.0 and how to equip citizens with the necessary skills to thrive in a digital society. The president even used his State of the Nation Address last month, to relay his dream of a new South African city driven by 4IR technologies.

However, pundits previously cautioned about government initiatives and strategies on the fourth industrial revolution becoming one-stop talkshops.

Independent analyst Dr Charley Lewis advised that the Presidential 4IR commission will need a high profile, resources and teeth if it is to avoid the same fate of units previously created with the aim of taking advantage of rapid advances in ICT.

Arthur Goldstuck, World Wide Worx MD, also commented saying “strategy counts for little, implementation is everything”.

“We need action committees, not discussion committees. We also need a nuanced understanding of what 4IR represents, rather than the vague generalisations that suggest few in government truly understand what it will demand of government.”

Inaugural digital economy summit

Meanwhile, the South African government will host the country's first 4IRSA Digital Economy Summit at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, taking place on 5 and 6 July.

The 4IRSA [fourth industrial revolution in SA] partnership is an alliance between the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Telkom, Deloitte and the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Fort Hare and Johannesburg. The partnership has now been extended to include Huawei and Vodacom.

The summit, which was announced to coincide with the launch of the 4IRSA partnership, was established to bring together all the major role players to develop plans and to share insights that will ultimately feed into a Presidential 4IR strategy.

“The pioneering 4IRSA partnership is an open and inclusive partnership that has been formed to stimulate and facilitate a national dialogue and shape a coherent national response to the 4th IR in South Africa,” explains professor Brian Armstrong of Wits University and Secretary of 4IRSA.

“It complements and supports other critical national initiatives, most notably the Presidential Commission on the 4th IR. Importantly, 4IRSA will develop an actionable plan based on in-depth research and collaborative, knowledge sharing forums. This plan will be developed with input from multiple constituencies including the public and private sectors, civil society and academia.”

The Digital Economy Summit’s line-up includes Ramaphosa, who will deliver the opening address, internationally recognised geopolitical forecaster, Dr George Friedman, as the keynote speaker, communications minster Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, as well as officials from Telkom, Vodacom and Huawei.

The summit will also feature various breakaway sessions to interrogate key themes, including competitiveness, concentration and inequality; the future of work and jobs; society, state and citizen; opportunities; critical success factors and the 4IR in the township economy.

For more information on 4IRSA or to live stream the Digital Economy Summit, click here.