WEF to establish Industry 4.0 centre in SA

Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Photo: WEF.
Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Photo: WEF.

The World Economic Forum is planning to open at least 12 Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the coming year across various countries, including South Africa.

These centres will be hubs for public-private collaboration to shape the development and application of emerging technologies, said Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, during his keynote address at the 6th CSIR Emerging Researcher Symposium held in Pretoria this morning.

"The centres are looking at eight different technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, drone technology, big data, precision medicine and so on, to develop the necessary ethical views, policies and regulations around these technologies which can be applied on a global level.

"Although we do acknowledge that in order to use them we cannot just be in San Francisco. It is not just the US that is driving the fourth industrial revolution," he said.

The WEF opened the first Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, US, in March 2017. The centre's objective is to bring together business leaders, governments, start-ups, civil society, academia and international organisations to co-design and pilot innovative new approaches to policy and governance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The centre aims to maximise the benefits of science and technology for society.

According to Schwab, affiliate centres will follow this multi-stakeholder approach.

"Next week we are opening a centre in Japan, we will then proceed to Mumbai and Beijing in the next months. What we are building at the moment is a global network that will enable us to do the necessary work.

"In the coming year we want to have a whole network of at least 12 centres across the globe collaborating to better understand these technologies, and more particularly, to understand their positive impact on humanity and to exploit the positive effects of the digital revolution."

Schwab said his visit to SA includes meetings with the relevant departments to establish such a centre locally.

"Part of my visit to SA is to start talks and facilitate the establishment of a centre in South Africa, for Africa as a whole. Through partnerships with the CSIR and the Department of Science and Technology, we are hoping that this effort will be advanced. Of course SA is the place to be as it has proven to be a gateway into Africa as a whole."

He added that the expansion to new geographies reflects the need from businesses and governments to become more agile and their desire to help shape the development of emerging technologies.

"We need to ensure that a technologically enriched future is safe, ethical, inclusive and sustainable for all, not just a few."

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, confirmed that Professor Schwab, along with SA President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be engaging on the country's investment into technology advancements later today.

"In a special roundtable convened by President Ramaphosa, we will be discussing how, in collaboration with the WEF, our government should best promote an international investment partnership that will accelerate growth and development in our country.

"We will also be discussing how SA should prepare to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. We could, of course, not have wished for better advisors than the professor and the forum on this strategic imperative," she noted.

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