President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the keynote address at the Digital Economy Summit in Johannesburg today, July 5, in which he expressed optimism about the opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
The president put forward points he said assured that 4IR would provide opportunities. He said South Africa was at the cutting edge of the adventures taking place in the digital universe.
“The government, in partnership with 4IRSA, has laid a foundation and this is the foundation on which the Presidential Commission will be able to build a national dialogue on our digital future,” he said.
Talking about the summit, Ramaphosa said it would define, redefine and explore the future of a digital economy.
“In years to come we will reflect on this summit as having enabled us to image the South Africa that we want and set us on a path of increased and shared growth,” he said.
The president went on to say that given what we know today about the potential benefits the 4IR can yield, it is important to embrace this historic conference of human insights and engagements on artificial intelligence and technology, to enable the country to address the problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
With the advent of globalisation, climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution there would be disruptions. “Jobs will be lost, but many more will be created as we move ahead with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and as all economies embrace the revolution,” he said.
The problem of transformation should be tackled by focusing on building a South Africa all citizens wanted, by realising some critical priorities: economic transformation, improving educational outcomes, health provision, service delivery, spatial integration and safety. These priorities should be looked at through the prism of the new industrial revolution, Ramaphosa said.
According to the President, South Africa had been a late bloomer when it came to industrialisation, but with the Fourth Industrial Revolution it was aiming to be a first adopter.
“This is do-able indeed,” he said, “because earlier this year South Africa was ranked by the Digital Transformation Index to be in the top 10 countries in the world leading the digital transformation necessary in the 21st century.”