Public lecture warns about the effects of 4IR

Professor Alfred Msomi, Dr Bethel Mutanga, Gugu Mthembu, Dr Enoch Duma Malaza and Sandile Mahlaba

To say the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon is an understatement in a world where its effects have already started shaping our day-to-day activities. Like many things technological, the 4IR’s impact on various sector will not be the same and some sector will get to experience it sooner than others. This is the point that the three speakers at the 4th Industrial Revolution: Transformation or Trouble? Public Lecture focused on.

The Public Lecture, which took place at MUT’s Natural Sciences Campus on 1 October 2019, saw three speakers take the audience on a journey exploring how the 4IR will impact on life as we know it, careers and redefine various job positions. The speakers were Dr Bethel Mutanga, from MUT’s Department of Information and Communications Technology; Gugu Mthembu, MUT alumna from Telkom; and Sandile Mahlaba, MUT alumnus from Microsoft.

Dr Mutanga reminded the audience how the 4IR will pave the way for the globalisation of everything including education and food, convergence of curriculum and research, shorter shelf life of skills and redefinition of roles in the workplace.

Mahlaba cautioned the audience about jobs that were already being altered and some that are disappearing.  He also warned about the dangers of not embracing technology. “By 2022 if you don’t have digital skills you won’t get a job,” said Mahlaba.

For Africa, Mahlaba said the 4IR offered an opportunity to review its resources and how those resources were used.  “For Africa the excitement is about how we are going to use our resources. You have a task. You cannot be facing the future like everything is normal,” said Mahlaba.

For Mthembu, more private sector, government and academia partnerships are required to ensure that the 4IR is not a threat to humans. “The 4th Industrial Revolution is not about technology but the people,” said Mthembu. “We need to address real economic challenges to enable service delivery.”

Mthembu said that part of ensuring that the 4IR is no threat to humans was offering cheaper broadband to the masses to improve access.