South African Deputy Communications Minister, Pinky Kekana officially opened the IBM Think Johannesburg event today, 20 June 2018 at the Kyalami Race Track.
Kekana began her address by thanking the current IBM South Africa Country General Manager, Hamilton Ratshefola and his team for inviting the South African Government to the event.
The IBM Think Johannesburg, themed – Where Humanity Meets Technology is ideal as we are at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, confirms Kekana.
“Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his inaugural State of the Nation Address has flagged this as one of governments imminent priorities when he said we will soon establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology.”
“Humanity has always been fascinated by technology and the relationship has been a very intimate one. In fact the world renowned American theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman John Dyson once proclaimed that – Technology is a gift from God. After the gift of Life it is perhaps the greatest of God’s gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and sciences.”
“Even our very own stalwart, former President Nelson Mandela linked Humanity to technology in a profound way when he said communication technologies have transformed the way people live and the manner in which countries develop. They have the potential to enable us to solve many of the critical problems confronting us. If this potential is to be realised, then we must find ways of turning these technologies into a resource for all people despite the challenges they face within their communities.”
The logical questions for all of us in this room today, is how do we ensure that technology goes beyond meeting humanity?
How do we ensure that it bridges the socio-economic inequalities faced by all of humanity?
How do we ensure that this gift from God becomes a resource for people, from all walks of life?
“The advent of technology has augmented our lives in ways which we could not have imagined, if you told me 10 years ago that we would have a self-driving car, a smart speaker, artificial intelligence, 3D printing biotechnology and virtual reality rooted in our everyday life just like computers, phones or electricity. I would not have known what you are talking about. But this is the world we live in today,” says Kekana.
“These developments are not only sensational but they are both disruptive and enriching. For a country like ours, this rapid evolution brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is becoming immensely noticeable.”
If someone was to ask, what does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for someone in the far flung corners of South Africa? Someone in the middle of Burgersfort or UMhlabauyalingana.
“Our reply as Government would be, better health care, quality basic education. With the proper deployment of technology we have redefined, the manner in which our citizens, obtain these very essential rudimentary services from our government.”
“I am confident that technology makes it possible to have the best heart surgeon in Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town link up with a Heart Surgeon in Mankweng Hospital in Polokwane to facilitate an operation on a patient, not be prohibited by time and distance.”
“Government acknowledges that for this great nation to fully reap the fruits of the fourth industrial revolution, we need to invest in the requisite infrastructure and skills. We must constantly assess, how we future proof our children in a society that is constantly changing. The time has come for us to introduce basic coding in our education system,” confirms Kekana.
“The rise of technology should not make us anxious, the evolution of jobs, should not deter us from moving forward to an automated society. But as we do so, we must be conscious not to leave others behind. This should be alleviated by putting measures in place to ensure that citizens are reskilled and we adopt new learning methods for the nation,” says Kekana.
“As government tackles the barriers to entry through policy interventions, our highly unionized labour sectors should also invest in skills development to address the challenges that come with digitization. We remain committed to address the cost to communicate, that in itself is a significant barrier to entry for Small to Medium Enterprises.”
“Technology will continue to redefine Humanity,” concludes Kekana.