Provincial leaders, academics and industry experts lead the way into the 4th Industrial Revolution
The world is moving towards an era of artificial intelligence and the public sector, institutions of Higher Learning and Corporate giants, are coming together and collaborating to stay relevant with the times.
The 4IR is an array of new technologies that link physical and cyber networks as one unit. The three components of 4IR have been categorised as Industrial Internet of Things (machines and other technologies that collect, share and act on data between themselves); the Big Data that refers to the capture of data on everything and real-time analysis of that data by machines and systems; and secure and reliable digital infrastructure that connects everything together.
The Free State Provincial Government in partnership with the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) and the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted an international 4th Industrial Revolution Summit to zoom into opportunities, challenges and fears raised by the local communities regarding the province’s participation in this new era. The 2-day event themed: ‘Leveraging the Youth Dividend for the Socio-Economic Advancement of the Free State’, took place on 28th and 29th November 2019 at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS), in Bloemfontein.
The event was graced by dignitaries from the Provincial government including the Premier of the Province, Honourable Sisi Ntombela and the respective MECs, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry giants from local and abroad. The aim of the summit is not only to educate, inform and showcase innovative ideas and solutions but also to motivate, inspire and come up with solutions on how everyone can benefit through participation in this era.
In her welcoming speech, the Free State Premier, Hon. Sisi Ntombela spoke about the alarming statistics of the Free State economy, highlighting that of their 2.8 million population, about 744 people are unemployed youth and that is why she felt the need for such an event to take place in her province. She further emphasised that the summit is primarily to liberate the youth of the Province. “The time has come for our young people in the Free State to grab every opportunity that comes their way and be job creators rather than job seekers. This 2019 Free State 4IR Summit is the first of many such opportunities to come, let us learn as much as we can and get on board, she said.
Prof. Henk de Jager, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, expressed his excitement towards this new era in our province and all that it promises to bring to our youth. He mentioned some of the 4IR technologies categories, which are already being utilised in the province and in the Higher Education system, such as artificial intelligence and the current research into the use of visual 4IR technologies at the CUT. He also said that he is aware of the ongoing debate between academics in the higher education system, which is based on the question: “is it a revolution or an evolution?” He also said that he is of the view that South Africa has been keeping up with the times from the 3rd Industrial Revolution exposed to technologies such as computers, cellphones and Information Technology “We have world-class inventions and research initiatives that have occurred in our country in both industry and institutions of higher learning. At CUT, we have the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing. We are a public university, and this is where you can receive your world-class education and skills to match this new-age technology.”
In conclusion, Prof. de Jager further mentioned that CUT had received a financial commitment of R5 million from the Free State Provincial Government and international investors towards establishing a Fourth Industrial Revolution Innovation Hub in 2020.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Alfred Ngowi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement declared the summit a success and acknowledged the provincial leadership for stimulating economic growth in the province. He also applauded the 56 local and international presenters from industry, academia and policy-making who participated, interacted and showcased various 4IR-related technologies and investment opportunities for the province.
1: CUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Henk de Jager delivering his presentation on the 4IR Landscape in the Free State. With him in the picture is from left: Free State Premier Honourable Sisi Ntombela, Representative from the Mangaung Mayoral office, Councillor Molefe Morake and MEC for Education, Honourable Tate Makgoe.
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