Technological progress is key to SA’s economic growth
Telkom, the initial sponsor of the 4IRSA initiative, believes the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will have many significant opportunities for South Africa if there is enough investment.
In its 2018 scenario report titled “The Impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution on Economic Development: Developing A Country Agenda”, the company says these include improved access to better services, which will be provided more efficiently across socio-economic and geographic barriers. This will help increase transparency, trust and social cohesion through direct communication.
Rapelang Rabana, the former chief digital officer of Telkom subsidiary BCX, however, warns in the report of the many risks that need to be effectively managed, such as unequal access to technology and benefits. To avoid mass retrenchments and resultant social instability, infrastructure, education and training are essential as new business models start displacing workers in favour of automation.
Rabana, who authored the document, says the government has a critical role to play in securing and enhancing the human capital and technological assets required to harness the power of 4IR. But multiple stakeholders will have to work together in a coordinated approach towards a shared vision in terms of financial investment and targeted outcomes. Telkom has tried to implement this vision through its participation in and financial support of the 4IRSA partnership.
The report says the scale of investment in 4IR should have a significant returns in the form of economic development. They should be in high growth technology companies, increased expenditure in technologies such as tablets and smart watches, and an increase in exports of technological services and products to other African countries.
The telecommunications giant believes it is uniquely positioned to drive the foundations of 4IR by investing in the country’s largest networks, integrating services and players, forging new business models and developing talent.
It currently has several initiatives to get the company moving into the future. They include:
- SpliceWorks, which is an online platform where tech businesses can get access to clients who might need their technology or digital innovation, therefore facilitating growth and employment
- Creating over 1000 jobs through Future Makers
- Through the WeThinkCode programme, the Telkom Group funds the training and work placement of 450 young coders over three year
- The CiTiX initiative, in partnership with CapaCiTi and the National Jobs Fund, aims to train 2400 learners in intermediate level digital skills including AI, Geomatics, Operational Technology, CyberSecurity and FinTech
- BCX Project 200 is a programme designed in partnership with the National Library of South Africa to upskill and provide job placement for 200 young, talented persons with disabilities through a Microsoft Systems Engineering course
- BCX invested in Explore Data Science Academy (South Africa’s first data science academy) to create 300 new skilled data scientists in the next three years, to meet the demand for data analytics in the digital economy
- The Telkom Foundation is spending R85m on education, while providing supplementary teaching and educating teachers in ICT
- BCXLearn provides free e-learning services covering Maths and Science
To ensure that goals are reached, the company will establish a singular co-ordination and accountability structure that will author, execute and measure Telkom’s 4IR strategy.