Technology featured prominently in SONA 2019

February 9th, 2019, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

More than any past president of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about technology during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), which took place on Thursday 7 February 2019. He said that as we grapple with the challenges of the past, and as we deepen our efforts to overcome the grave injustices of centuries, it is essential that we do so with our eyes firmly fixed on the future. “Revolutionary advances in technology are reshaping the way our people work and live. They are transforming the way people relate to each other, the way societies function and the way they are governed.”

He said we have a choice between being overtaken by technological change or harnessing it to serve our developmental aspirations. “Today we choose to be a nation that is reaching into the future.”

He referred to the successful implementation of the MeerKAT telescope, the precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the advanced technology, super computing facilities and skills that are being developed by South Africans. He said these skills are being used to build the Hera Project, a radio telescope to detect, for the first time, the distinctive radio signals from the very first stars and galaxies that formed early in the life of the universe. “This is not merely about advancing human understanding of the origin of the universe, it is about responding to the challenges that face South Africans now and in the future. It is about developing technologies and capabilities that will build a dynamic and competitive economy that creates decent, sustainable jobs.”

In the past year, the fourth industrial revolution has been on just about every minister and government spokesperson’s lips. It has become fashionable to ledge onto the hype, but that is not how South Africa will embrace it and reap the benefits. To this extent, the president has appointed a Presidential Commission comprising of imminent persons from different sectors to serve as a national overacting advisory mechanism on digital transformation.

On the topic of education, he said that the Department of Basic Education will be working on converting some of the academic schools into technical high schools. This is a move that should be welcomed by industry but also places a responsibility on industry to respond by making employees with technical expertise available to assist teachers on a part-time basis and develop hands-on projects that will enhance experiential technical learning. Here is a challenge that industry associations and technical institutes should urgently work on. Partnerships with education authorities will help ensure that what is taught is relevant to industry and the provides the development of skills needed in the future.

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