Pinky Kekana: 4IR must benefit South Africans

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Deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana, speaking at the IBM Think Summit in Johannesburg.
Deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana, speaking at the IBM Think Summit in Johannesburg.

We have no choice but to look at how humans and machines will co-exist for the benefit of humanity, said deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana, speaking yesterday at the IBM Think Summit in Johannesburg.

Kekakna assured the audience that government is looking at what the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) means for South Africans in both metropolitan and rural areas. "Irrespective of where we live, we need to harness how these tools can improve the lives of South Africans."

She admitted that as government gets to grips with the ‘new administration’, following the May elections, it is taking stock. South Africa is not where “we’re supposed to be”, she said, adding that technology could help improve the situation, particularly its clever adoption by government.

"The opportunity to build a more efficient, agile and responsive government by the people, for the people, is now. Technology can help us build such a government.”

Calling on the tech industry to play its part, Kekana said there is not only a need locally to undertake research and development activities, but then to commercialise and patent solutions that would help South African society.

“We need to look for solutions for our country that we can own, that will bring the world to South Africa for 4IR solutions. For South Africa to rise, not as a spectator, we need to ensure we provide African-designed solutions to cross the void.”

Kekana cautioned that the risks and challenges that come with 4IR developments should not be ignored. One of the most obvious issues in a country with already high youth unemployment, is the impact of automation will have on jobs.

“Together, business and government can achieve a positive experience of the 4IR for all South Africans. I’d like South Africans to be some of the first in the world to experience daily life the 4IR way.”

She talked of smart home technologies, improved healthcare and how autonomous vehicles could reduce commute times by up to 50%. With these comes the issue of security, which Kekana put at the top of her list of challenges.

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