Technologies driven by the 4IR include: artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, cloud computing and amongst others.
“Digitisation and technology are widely regarded as having the potential to spur economic growth, with opportunities for youth in digital jobs as a key consideration,” says Masuku.
Although the working class is upskilling themselves to align with the digital word, the youth (especially from the rural areas) still leave school without digital skills. It is said that by the year 2030, millions of jobs will be automated. While this might create some disruption and change how we work, it also presents new opportunities for the youth to create solutions for existing social issues.
When there were no job opportunities after graduating in Nature Conversation, UMP alumnus Bongani Sibuyi turned to IT, providing solutions, software maintenance and upgrades.
“I’ve always been a rather technically-minded person and have been fascinated with tech since an early age. I wanted to pursue computer engineering but unfortunately couldn’t because of my matric results," he adds.
“I’m driven by my passion to succeed in the IT industry. Currently, we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), which has brought with it many business opportunities. I saw one of the opportunities and ran with it."
Having the skill and passion for IT drove Sibuyi to venture into the IT field and start his computer repair company, Relevant Technologies, in 2018.
"I started out by collecting students’ laptops from their residences and repairing them off-campus. At the moment I am conducting studies that will provide integrated IT solutions that connect technology with nature conservation,” he says.
Robot Farmers are the future.
Digital skills should be introduced in high school, students should start learning how to solve problems using 4IR technologies and turn solutions into businesses. 4IR skills such as coding, and data science, artificial intelligence, IoT, cloud computing are in high demand.
Masuku adds that these skills are now required and beneficial in every industry. Even other non-IT sectors, for example the agricultural sector, could start making use of IoT smart farming solutions or utilize drones to sow, while benefitting the community.
“Entrepreneurs can also use digital marketing and create apps for their businesses instead of selling or marketing products or services door to door. They can make use of digital platforms where they can reach a wider audience,” she adds.
The world requires people to be digitally savvy. There are new needs: drones, robots, programming and this is why the South African government has collaborated with NEMISA and universities to create 4IR awareness and skills to communities, says Masuku.
While there are a number of different private and public sector initiatives that have been undertaken to capitalise on this opportunity, there are a number of challenges that constrain the realisation of this digital dividend.
Masuku adds that the rural areas are mostly affected because they lack digital devices, struggle with readily available internet access, and digital illiteracy is still widespread.
To address some of these challenges, the University of Mpumalanga through the Colab have been offering digital training to high school learners.
“Through the UMP Colab, we have come to understand these challenges hence we usually start from the basic skills, and then take them up to 4IR technologies. The UMP CoLab has been in an outreach programme to identify schools to partner with. We have identified youth centres and schools around the Mpumalanga province; we have so far approached schools around Lekazi, Nkomazi Daantjie, Mataffin and Bushbuckridge.”
Reaching rural youth
Masuku adds that even educators in the rural schools have been trained in Digital Literacy courses.
“The aim of the programme is to prepare high-school learners on what to expect when they reach university level, and familiarizing them with tools and technologies used at tertiary institutions. Moreover, it is also to promote the University of Mpumalanga as an institution.”
Sibuyi is looking at solutions that will cater for youth in rural areas. His dream, he says, is to lead a professional IT company that operates in different locations that are accessible and visible to his target market, which is mainly students.
“I’ve also employed four current UMP students, which implies that Relevant Technologies is not only a monetary seeking organisation but also gives back to the community and brings about positive change.
I’d like to become a top leader in the IT Industry focusing mainly on providing IT support to students in a fast and economical manner. I’d love to have branches across all the tertiary campuses in South Africa.”
@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Picture Supplied.