SA must be tech-driven, says president as he receives 4IR blueprint

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President Cyril Ramphosa with minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams at the Digital Economy Summit last year.
President Cyril Ramphosa with minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams at the Digital Economy Summit last year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the recommendations contained in the report of the presidential commission on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

Yesterday, minister of communications and digital technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and deputy chair of the commission professor Tshilidzi Marwala presented the report to the president.

Ramaphosa chairs the commission.

In April last year, the Presidency announced the 4IR commission, which is tasked with advising Ramaphosa and government as a whole on relevant policies, strategies and action plans to position SA as a smart, connected and competitive global player.

Its key objective is to coordinate the development of SA’s national response through a comprehensive action plan to deal with 4IR.

The commission, consisting of leaders from academia, business and civil society, began its work in May 2019, combining research and stakeholder engagements to generate a comprehensive view of SA’s current conditions as well as the prospects in the 4IR.

The commission has, since its establishment, deliberated on the opportunities that enable SA to craft a shared 4IR future, as well as the constraints currently in place.

In a statement, the Presidency says these deliberations have included international benchmarking which has delivered insights into the possibilities for the competitive positioning of SA in the 4IR landscape globally.

It adds that the commission has examined the role of the state, as well as key institutional actors, in leading and resourcing the work that must be undertaken to ensure success.

Yesterday, the commission made recommendations spanning such strategic areas as the country’s investment in human capital; artificial intelligence; advanced manufacturing and new materials; the provision of data to enable innovation; future industries and 4IR infrastructure.

Ramaphosa welcomed the report, which the commission will shortly present to Cabinet before it is published.

The Presidency says following its publication, the report will form the basis of a national discussion on how all sectors of society can contribute to a technologically-enabled future that brings about greater economic and social inclusion, and enhances the competitiveness of the South African economy.

In this effort, it notes, SA will be positioned as both an adopter and innovator of solutions that will have impact and relevance nationally and globally.

The president urged the commission to place 4IR at the centre of economic recovery, to enable the country to emerge from the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“South Africa must be a more technologically-driven country that finds solutions that move us forward, with 4IR as a pivot for economic recovery,” he said.

Ramaphosa pointed out that digital transformation had to be harnessed “to change the way we live, learn, work and govern”.

According to the Presidency, the commission has attracted members from different sectors of society and reflect a balance in gender, youth, labour and business, including digital start-ups and digital entrepreneurships.

Notably on the list of members is Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub, who has been at the helm of the telco since 2013.

Other ICT industry heavyweights include founder and chairman of Convergence Partners Andile Ngcaba; MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela; Charmaine Houvet, public policy director for Africa at Cisco; and Leon Rolls, president of Progressive Blacks in ICT.

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