Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Speech by the honourable Premier of the Northern Cape Dr Zamani Saul, at the Occasion of the joint Seminar by UNISA and the Post Schooling Education and Training Sector

Program Director
Regional Director of UNISA Mr Kokong
The Principal of the Northern Cape Rural TVET College Mr,Percy Sago
Academics and Educators
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to extend my profound thanks and appreciation to the Northern Cape Rural TVET College and UNISA for inviting me to share some thoughts and views on the fourth Industrial Revolution and how we should collectively position our Province to take advantages of these developments.

As we all know we are currently in the midst of an industrial revolution with an exponential pace of change which is disrupting every industry in every country. This revolution brought a cris of fear, but this is false fear as Franklin Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

This Revolution is different from the past three in terms of impact, velocity and scope. The first industrial revolution was a shift from reliance of animals to the age of mechanical production that occurred in the beginning of 1760. This marked the time of steam engines - steam was powering everything from agriculture to textile manufacturing. The second industrial revolution was the age of age of science and mass production and occurred between the end of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. This period things started to speed due to a number of key intervention such as petrol engines, aeroplanes, chemical fertilizers etc. All of these helped us to go faster and do more. The third industrial revolution was the age of digital revolution that
begun in the 1950s. As you are listening to me now I’m certain you are also busy experiencing some of the wonders of the digital revolution right now, you must be having some kind of handy device that allows you access to the internet and the cloud. It is a digital revolution, characterized by a fusion of technology that is impacting on every aspect of our lives today, creating threads and opportunities. It profoundly impacts on social, physical, health as well as biological spaces of human life.

Each of these three revolutions represented a profound change and most importantly during the second revolution people started to follow jobs. Hence the 1900s saw workers leaving their rural homes to move to urban areas for factory work.

But what is an Industrial Revolution? An industrial revolution occurs when there are significant changes in the social RELATIONS of production – not only changes in the MEANS of production. The technology, the wires, the computers, the software, etc. relate to the means of production. We are concerned about the change in the relations of production that this new technology brings, and how best we can prepare people in the Northern Cape to take social and economic advantage of the shift to what is called the “knowledge economy”.

This Fourth Industrial Revolution is a new era that builds and extends the impact of digitalization in unanticipated ways. It includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and
biotechnology, which will cause widespread disruption, not only to business models, but also to labour markets over the next five years and beyond, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.

The impacts of modern developments in areas like digital technology, data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence are already having a profound effect in changing the relations of production – we are all aware of one of the negative consequences of displacement of labour and increasing
levels of unemployment in societies that are not able to adapt to the change.

The main focus of the 4th Industrial Revolution is the idea of artificial intelligence, where computers undertake tasks faster, more accurately and more safely than humans can. Already, many of the jobs in areas like manufacturing, mining and agriculture – all relevant to the Northern Cape – are being done using artificial intelligence technologies. A crop harvesting machine on a farm, equipped with cameras and image analysis software, can distinguish between a crop plant and a weed – and then spray exactly the correct amount of weed killer on the weed only. Of course, we cannot take an anti-technology approach. We cannot behave like Luddites, who go around burning machines to try to protect traditional ways of working, what we should be doing is to explore exciting opportunities offered by these developments and respond appropriately.

While many of workers in South Africa and in our province may have a tertiary education, they may not necessarily have the skill-sets that are needed to bridge the digital skills gap. Because of the pace of change in digital technology, their skills need to be updated to enable them to grab
the opportunities that comes with digital technology. There are many opportunities, for example, the cost of innovation continues to fall as increasingly more people have access to cheaper smartphones.

Ladies and Gentlemen in a recent study by Capgemini Consulting, it was found that digitisation improves productivity and create deeper, more sustainable organisational capabilities. The study also found that businesses that invest in up skilling their talent with digital skills are 26% more profitable than their industry competitors and generate 9% more revenue through their employees and physical assets.

The digital skills gap can negatively affect productivity when the pace of technology outpaces the skill-sets of the workforce using it. Furthermore, a recent study by Deloitte states that the rapid pace of technological change in the workplace is leading to a skills half-life of only 2.5 years. To fix this problem organisations need to identify the type of digital skills that will drive productivity and growth for their business type, align these skills with their digital strategy and then facilitate the
upskilling of their employees with these high value skills. Without the required talent in up-to-date digital skills, South African businesses cannot compete against more digitally mature competitors.

Provincial Government together with important stakeholders in education and vocational training, TVET colleges in particular, must turn hand and mind to the economic opportunities on offer, given the unique characteristics and needs of the province. The Provincial Spatial Development Plan has identified many of these opportunities and we have to think carefully about the strategic investment approaches necessary to take advantage of these opportunities and to maximize the participation of the Northern Cape people.

Programme Director, the most sustainable way to respond to the fourth industrial revolution is to take a focused approach to developing the local intellectual capacity of people in the Northern Cape, particularly of the youth and the next generation who will have to engage directly with new
ways of understanding jobs, wealth creation and distribution of economic benefits.

Our school and post-school education institutions must be creative in developing new curriculum and pedagogy approaches to ensuring that our graduates are intellectually equipped to meaningfully engage with the challenges of the “knowledge economy”.

Of course, an increased focus on good quality, foundational mathematics and physical science is essential in this project. But digital literacy and competence is also important in the humanities and social sciences. Digital arts, film making, performance arts, population studies in social science
and public health, all require a working knowledge of data analytics and artificial intelligence. The opportunities for using such technologies to
extend the reach of social justice to the most marginal of our communities
are real and we must learn to use them from an early age.

Ladies and gentlemen in our post-school education, we must increase the number and levels of qualifications in areas like computer science, software engineering and data science – from certificate to doctoral-level qualifications. SPU was the first university on the continent to offer a
BSc in Data Science in 2015 and introduced the Honours in Data Science this year. This is exciting but it is not enough. We now need to intensify ICT qualifications at the Certificate level at our TVET colleges in areas like software code-writing, computer science, electronic systems development, digital instrumentation and data acquisition. The TVET colleges together with Sol Plaatje University will have to work collaboratively to ensure that we develop a comprehensive strategy to address the skills requirement of the Fourth Industrial revolution.

The Northern Cape also need more graduates in physics, mathematical sciences, computer science, information systems – from the 1-year Higher Certificate level to the PhD in these areas. We also need to see many more women leaving with such qualifications and actively leading in
implementation projects in the world of work.

The international evidence is strong in showing that students recruited from a particular area are more likely to return to work in their home areas when the economic opportunities are present. We must actively recruit the fine young minds of the Northern Cape province into these disciplines
and areas of study.

It is important that the education institutions are complementary in their approach to development of qualifications so that mobility and articulation are possible. The learners who graduate from a TVET college must be able to confidently carry the credits of their qualifications to the university and be given advanced standing on entry – not merely be treated as fresh matriculants. Equally, our higher education graduates must be able to enter postgraduate programs of study at any good university locally or abroad and must be encouraged to return to the Northern Cape to work and add value here.

Past waves of technological advancement and demographic change have led to increased prosperity, productivity and job creation. This does not mean, however, that these transitions were free of risk or difficulty.

The current technological revolution doesn’t need to become a race between humans and machines, but rather an opportunity for work to truly become a channel through which people recognise and realize their full potential. In order for us to build a modern, growing and successful Province as envisioned in my inaugural address we must be more specific and much faster in understanding the changes underway and be cognizant of our collective responsibility to lead our institutions and communities through this transformative moment.

Addressing the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality in our province requires that we build a repository of skills and capacities consistent with technologies associated with the 4th industrial revolution.

The innovators and disrupters in industry ten years from now will be people who are between 10 and 20 years of age. This is a generation who is truly immersed in the digital world. They were born in the advent of the iPad and iPhone and for them it is natural to have digital technology embedded in their daily lives. Our institutions of learning are therefore challenged to respond comprehensively to address the knowledge and skills requirement of the fourth Industrial revolution and quantum computing industrial development. In this regard please know that you have a partner in the Northern Cape Government, together let us take responsibility to address
the challenge that is presented to us, in so doing advance sustainable human capital as we build on our vision of a Modern, Growing and Successful Province.


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