We often hear about the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) being upon us and how it will change lives for the better through the use of technology.
But in order for 4IR to have an impact there needs to be action behind the verbal push we’ve seen up until now.
One aspect of leveraging technology that many folks overlook is actually the people behind it and government is cognisant of this.
The problem, however, is that as development economist consultant, Liesel Eksteen highlighted in a webinar last week, we lack the skills needed in the age of technology.
The webinar was hosted by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and was themed, Reskilling and Enterprise Development for politically exposed persons in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.
The consultant highlights five technical skills that are in high demand:
- Digital skills (data literacy, AI, 3D printing, blockchain, quantum computing and other emerging tech)
- Project management
- Video content and production
- Digital and affiliate marketing
- Automated artisanal craftmanship
While many of these are obvious, Eksteen also noted that logical thinking and emotional intelligence are vital skills in today’s world and we tend to agree. As cold and mathematical as technology is, if there is no human element behind it, we get things like racially biased AI bots.
With this in mind we turn to the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). This programme is designed by government with a view to, “providing poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed”.
During the webinar it was proposed that the EPWP be redesigned to highlight this demand for the skills above and provide participants with training in this regard.
“There are programmes we have fallen in love with because of what they have delivered in the past. But now we need to start thinking about the problem we are trying to solve,” said Eksteen.
The problem in this regard is unemployment and Eksteen posits that government must look to improve the skillset of South Africans by teaching skills such as emotional intelligence, using technology to perform tasks and even critical and logical thinking.
Senior official at DPWI, Lungisani Dladla proposed tackling this issue through a strategy he calls Kasi-nomics. This strategy sees the development methods to drive township entrepreneurship through the use of the Expanded Public Works Programme and funding from government.
It remains to be seen if our government notes the matters raised in this webinar and whether we see any action in this regard.
The webinar was fantastic viewing and we highly recommend giving it a watch if you’re interested in education and skills development in South Africa.