Deputy President David Mabuza says government is implementing programmes in a way that ensures that the country is prepared and does not lag behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Mabuza said this when he fielded oral questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“… Government is alive to the changing environment and has committed to ensuring that key programmes are implemented to align our training and development with the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“We cannot afford to lag behind emerging global developments and that is why we must engage in a process of continuous innovation, research, skilling our people, in particular the youth, in order to meet the demands of today’s knowledge-based economy,” he said.
ANC MP Cornelia September had asked Mabuza to unpack government programmes that are targeted towards youth and women with a view to addressing unemployment and how the programmes would prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Mabuza said in everything government does, there is an understanding and clarity that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is “not a destination, but a reality of the moment”.
He said the pace of change over the last few years has largely been shaped by technological disruption and innovation.
“Already, there are sectors that are now supplemented by robotics and other artificial intelligence inventions.
“Simply put, there are jobs that were previously considered as vocational but are now becoming technology-intense and require specialised knowledge and skills. We therefore have to keep up with these developments.”
Mabuza said it is precisely for this reason that the process is currently underway to appoint individuals to the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address in 2018.
The commission will coordinate the development of South Africa’s national response through a comprehensive action plan to deal with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“As government, we recognise the need to make smart investments in research and development that support our industrialisation plan, including manufacturing, that will lead to the creation of more jobs,” Mabuza said.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is investing in a range of outreach interventions that enhance the capacity of young people and women to create employment opportunities for themselves and for others.
The department also supports a number of accelerated training programmes in areas where there are dire skills shortages. This includes, for example, programmes providing training in data science and analytics.
“It also includes the mLab initiative that provides mobile application development support to youth-based enterprises. Through this programme, the DST is providing opportunities for more young people and women to interact with the technologies that will shape our future.
“Other initiatives include a network of Industrial Development Centres and technology stations where a large number of the beneficiaries are women and young people,” Mabuza said.
Getting youth and women on board
Through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, government is forging partnerships with key industry players in the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) space to implement programmes that prepare youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
These programmes include the training of young people in various disciplines related to the 4th Industrial Revolution such as coding, data analytics and Blockchain.
“Our partnership with Google has, since 2017, benefitted 131 980 youth, 58% of whom are female.
“Through the South Africa Network Academy Programme, CISCO has, to date, trained 10 590 young people and has set a target of 15 000 in 2019.
“Over the past two years, the Huawei Seeds of the Future Program continues to expose students to advanced ICT knowledge,” the Deputy President said.
In addition to this, Microsoft is involved in a new partnership programme in South Africa, targeting the training of a million youth by 2023.
“Young people will be the major beneficiaries of these training programmes. Government is also working on an enabling environment for e-commerce, which will go a long way towards enabling SMMEs to provide services and transact online,” Mabuza said.
Through its ICT Women Empowerment Programme, government has so far trained 450 women on digital skills to empower them with necessary skills required to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.