South Africa to host WEF C4IR

April 29th, 2019, Published in Articles: EngineerIT, Articles: Vector

South Africa and the World Economic Forum (WEF) have signed a host government accord to establish an affiliate centre of the WEF’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Centre (C4IR). The WEF established the C4IR in San Francisco in the USA in March 2017, as a hub for global, multi-stakeholder cooperation to develop policy frameworks and advance collaborations that accelerate the benefits of science and technology.

The accord paves the way for South Africa to join China, India and Japan in launching an affiliate centre as the world prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, enabled by the convergence of digital, physical and biological technologies which are disrupting existing industries and the production and consumption of goods and services.

Dr Murat Sonmez, head of the WEF’s C4IR Network and DST minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane signing the C4IR hosting agreement.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Murat Sonmez, head of the WEF’s C4IR Network,  said the network’s vision is to help shape the development and application of emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity. He said that technology in the 4IR environment was advancing rapidly, and that countries and their regulatory frameworks could not keep pace with developments.  “We need interoperable data policies to protect all stakeholders”. He described data as the oxygen of the 4IR, saying that artificial intelligence and machine learning had led to machine insights becoming more accurate than human insights. “South Africa has the potential to contribute to all these developments in the global network and have a seat on the C4IR advisory board, helping to shape what we are intent on achieving. We are therefore looking forward to hosting this affiliate centre in South Africa,” he said.

The mission is to co-design and test and redefine governance protocols and policy frameworks to maximise the benefits and minimise the risk of advanced science and technology. To accelerate impact and drive change, the network brings together government, business organisations, dynamic start-ups, civil society, academia and international organisations from around the world to work together across nine technology areas which are:

  • Internet of things, robotics and smart cities.
  • Precision medicine.
  • Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Autonomous and urban mobility.
  • Data policy.
  • Digital trade.
  • Drones and tomorrow airspace.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution for the earth.

Affiliate centres focus on issues of local concern, but also contribute to the overall research and thought leadership processes of the C4IR Network. Processes are under way to expand the C4IR Network with affiliate centres in several other jurisdictions. The South African government, through the Department of Science and Technology (DST), intends to establish its affiliate centre as a public-private partnership based at the CSIR.

DST minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane welcomed the signing of the accord and said, “This is the culmination of extensive negotiations that started a year ago, and marks a very important milestone in the partnership, and the beginning of a long and exciting journey together. It is no longer possible to discuss economic development without factoring in the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the economy as whole. Any effort we make as a country to grow our economy will now largely be shaped by how quickly we are able to embrace and master the technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

“This irreversible global transformation was taking place in the context of a South Africa faced with poverty, inequality and unemployment, and that our approach to the 4IR had to be responsive to these developmental challenges”, the minister said.

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