South African industries are urged to prepare for the eventuality of digital transformation and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), with gender equality, skills development and job creation essential to business strategies going forward.

This is according to deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana, who officially opened the second annual Experience Micro Focus Universe 2019 event hosted today in Johannesburg.

The minister stressed the need for equal access to digital transformation, specifically for African women, and said 200 million African women still cannot reap the rewards of e-commerce, telemedicine and e-learning.

“We need access to skills and digital transformation to ensure that previously and currently disadvantaged people – especially African women – are empowered for this revolution and the ones to come.”

She said governments can no longer delay or ignore growing concern over 4IR and the impact on the workforce across industries. Kekana referenced McKinsey research, which listed industries like banking, media, entertainment, retail, hospitality, insurance and the public sector as particular sectors this issue will impact.

“The world is changing more rapidly than at any other time in human history. Digital transformation and 4IR have influence on everything we do as individuals… IOT, mobility, cloud, big data, augmented reality, blockchain and fintech are shifting companies, organisations and governments to the next level of digital engagement.

“Digital technology is integrated into every aspect of today’s businesses and will transform industry in completely new ways; we have only started to explore digital opportunities. Digital transformation has only just begun.”

At the event, Gary de Menezes, MD of pure-play software firm Micro Focus SA, said the company has partnered with Nexio Digital to launch SMAX in the Cloud, a service management in the cloud solution, to be rolled out on 1 September.

De Menezes also announced the launch of its robotic process automation (RPA) offering, which he described as fundamental to the company’s overall digital transformation strategy.

“RPA is one part of the enterprise automation puzzle. We all talk of shifting left, of digital transformation, of moving to the cloud … but automation is first and foremost. Digital transformation cannot happen without automation; it offers the roadmap.”

Micro Focus paid tribute to its SMME partners as having played an instrumental role in helping the company’s growth, securing a $13 million pipeline within its SMME partner programme, along with 194 technical and sales certifications.