We can either be on the precipice of significant change, innovation and changing the prospects of future generations for good or, more frighteningly, on the precipice of obsolescence.
Just 10 countries account for 90% of all global patents and 70% of all exports directly associated with the advanced digital production (ADP) technologies that are driving the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). Another 40 are actively engaging in these technologies. Still, the rest of the world remains mostly excluded from technological breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT), advanced robotics and additive manufacturing.
Herein lies the problem innovation must be embraced and encouraged. The search for new and better methods, technologies and practices need to be foremost in our minds. The advance of technology including machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced robotics is vast, rapid and unstoppable. A key challenge is that the country has been slow to nurture the skills needed for companies to compete and grow in an increasingly technology-driven world.
As we embark on the transition to automation, the reality is we are lagging behind our international competitors in the adoption of 4IR technology. In the South African and even African context, we need to rethink and readjust our attitudes towards innovations like AI and automation. We need to balance the real and tangible fear faced by millions of workers with the prospects of the labour force of the future.
Automation offers opportunities to bring benefits to workers. With the shift to robotics and automation comes opportunities for reskilling, and chances for people to flourish in design, building and programming robotics, and automation and data technologies. The wealth gap is directly and inescapably proportional to the advanced technology gap between societies; to fix this, we must adapt and do so at a much faster rate. There needs to be a change in the attitude that labour and advances in technology are at loggerheads.
As technology practitioners, Axiz has been at the forefront of providing data and insight-driven innovations in the market. We understand that due to the complexity of these advances, companies are overwhelmed and their progress on the technological ladder remains limited. The fourth industrial revolution will exacerbate this phenomenon because, in reality, it represents an elevator in a building with infinite floors and subsequently, even more rooms.
Productivity, economic growth and ultimately job creation and higher earnings will flow to those entities that can get on said 4IR elevator and capitalise on new technologies. We, the market, need to create safe spaces for dialogue and proof of concept so that critical mass is created and more individuals and businesses understand what’s at stake – the future.
The latecomers and laggards can only catch up with support oriented towards building basic, intermediate and advanced industrial and technological capabilities, together with digital infrastructure. Enter Axiz. As a technology distributor, Axiz is perfectly placed to help resellers and their clients make sense of it all and take advantage of the current and imminent advances characterising 4IR. Our digitisation drive has led companies in public and private sectors to better efficiencies and began to transform the very bedrock upon which their profitability and objective-driven results are founded.
The advent of “cyber-physical systems” or 4IR is well under way, leading businesses, governments and societies to entirely new capabilities for their people and systems. In our last article, we discussed some of the characteristics defining the South African commercial landscape. It’s time to discuss the opportunity.
With 4IR comes new economic implications: skills requirements, technologies, markets, marketing to evolved consumers, all of which have been heavily invested in globally, resulting in an irreversible snowball effect. The opportunity is potential and it is up to our industry to move it into its kinetic state. Innovation, once kinetic, cannot be stopped.
It will empower individuals, businesses and communities, as it creates new opportunities for economic, social and personal development. But it also could lead to the marginalisation of some groups, exacerbate inequality, create unknown security risks and undermine human relationships.
Axiz believes that as industry players it is up to the vendor, distributor and partner ecosystem to ensure these challenges are met head-on, in open forums that include all stakeholders and that enable the technological trajectory of our country, region and continent. How the 4IR progresses will come down to people, culture and values.
Despite advances in technology being undoubtedly disruptive, they also represent a substantive opportunity. South African’s should harness technology to reignite productivity, growth and job creation. But, to leverage the opportunity, concerted action is needed from businesses, government, labour organisations and educational institutions.
For example, companies can now draw from a universe of vendor-specific and generic online learning resources and develop their own, customised programmes for their staff. And their staff can personalise their learning, work in peer groups and study the specialist content they need.
So we’re moving from highly structured, finite learning models to decentralised, agile, flexible, continuous learning and thinking models. Imagine that, the fourth industrial revolution being a grassroots movement propelled by ordinary South Africans and led by the avant-garde, forward-looking local organisations.
The opportunity lies with those willing to lead the way.
Organisations that are smart about tapping into this future-focused energy stand to accelerate productivity and innovation, grow their businesses, build new-generation jobs at scale, and contribute to realising South Africa’s true economic potential. More broadly, the opportunity exists to participate in the ecosystem, driving sustainable change and ensuring South Africans steer how this enormous transformation will find local expression.
Axiz Field Services is a hardware, software services and Support Company that operates across the continent of Africa