Presidential Commission report on 4IR

In 2019, President Cyril Rhamaphosa established a Commission to do a comprehensive review of South Africa’s current conditions as well as its prospects in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In its findings gazetted in Oct 2020 the Commission noted:

The 4IR is a new epoch in social and economic life. It is driven by technological advancements that will deepen the connections between the biological, physical and digital worlds, therefore blurring or merging capabilities amongst these domains.

Success in the 4IR will depend on our ability to unleash the full scientific, industrial and creative capabilities of South African society. In other words, the fundamentals of this revolution are consistent with the aims of our developmental state: economic competitiveness and societal wellbeing.

The key recommendations of the commission appear on page 173 and are summarized as:

  • Invest in Human Capital
  • Establish an AI Institute
  • Establish a platform for advanced manufacturing and new materials
  • Secure and avail data to enable innovation
  • Incentivise future industries, platforms and applications of 4IR technologies
  • Build 4IR infrastructure
  • Review and amend (or create) policy & legislation
  • Establish 4IR strategy implementation and coordination council in the Presidency

The commission concluded:

” … A key consideration for the Commission is urgency and accountability. The 4IR is not in the future, it is the present. It is therefore imperative that the country reorganises itself to ensure that citizens are positioned to benefit from the opportunities it presents…

In all, the Commission’s analysis has led to the conclusion that the 4IR is an opportunity for South Africa to integrate itself into the broader African market as envisaged in the long -term economic recovery plan. We recognise this moment as containing within it, the potential to use technology to address the most challenging development problems faced by South Africa and the rest of the continent. By supporting SMMEs to develop technology that will optimise the delivery of services in sectors such as health, education and transport, we can simultaneously enhance the wellbeing of our citizens and become globally competitive.

Socio- economic integration, specifically within the African continent, is thus the 4IR implication of South Africa’s current development trajectory. By doing this, we can catalyse dramatic socio- economic improvements in South Africa, a tde that must be intentionally directed to lift our compatriots across the continent of Africa. That means not only resolving the triple challenge through technology but using technology as an instrument through which to achieve a much bolder development vision in which South Africa is not emerging but rather accomplished, amongst nations. The 4IR is an opportunity to achieve South Africa’s Vision 2030 and beyond. Let us Build!”