President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the inaugural Fourth Industrial Revolution SA - Digital Economy Summit at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on July 5 2019. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the inaugural Fourth Industrial Revolution SA - Digital Economy Summit at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on July 5 2019. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE

President Cyril Ramaphosa brought together public- and private-sector players on Friday at a summit in which he seeks to turn around the economic fortunes of SA, looking to digital technology to drive the country beyond its paltry 0.8% GDP growth rate. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Digital Economy Summit 2019 officially got underway in Midrand, Johannesburg on Friday morning and includes technology companies, executives and governmentofficials.

Gauteng premier David Makhura, who opened the proceedings, said he was happy the president had set up the  summit to tackle new challenges brought on by technology.

With the Gauteng government being the first provincial administration to implement an e-government platform, he said there was room for a more efficient way of running cities and municipalities. 

Keynote speaker George Friedman, the founder of online publication Geopolitical Futures, which analyses and forecasts the course of global events, said that each technological revolution is different from the last.

The summit’s theme is “Positioning SA to be Globally Competitive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Ramaphosa explained in the 2019 state of the nation address (Sona), that a presidential commission on 4IR will “serve as a national, overarching advisory mechanism on digital transformation” that would “identify and recommend policies, strategies and plans that will position SA as a global competitive player within the digital revolution space”.

4IRSA is an alliance between the recently renamed department of communications and digital technologies, Telkom, Deloitte, and Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Fort Hare.

The partnership now also includes global technology giant Huawei and local mobile communications company, Vodacom.

Prof Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of Wits, said the country needs new skills. “We need to anticipate them. We need to train them.”

Huawei senior vice-president Kevin Tao, said the past 15 years has seen massive developments in technology and growth of the internet. “5G is not 4G plus 1G,” he said to an amused crowd, highlighting the promise of the new communication standard yet to be fully rolled out in SA.

Tao said Huwai has been in SA for two decades, helping the country build its network. He hopes the partnership will continue as China remains one of SA’s largest trading partners.  

gavazam@businesslive.co.za