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Getting Africa ready for the fourth industrial revolution

It is almost impossible to imagine what the world would look like if the Industrial revolution which took place from the 18th to the 19th centuries in Britain and America, never happened. It was an era in which machines changed people’s way of life as well as their methods of manufacturing things. Just imagine a world without electric lights, telephones, television, radios, automobiles and airplanes. It would certainly be a still world.

Developments in the world have shown that in every period of 100 years, a revolution occurs which alters the economic alignment of the world. For instance, the first revolution made Great Britain a global super power. The second led to the establishment of the dominance of America as the worlds’ only super power. The third revolution unleashed the wave of globalization that has lifted over a billion people out of poverty in less than 50 years. It is predicted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to let loose the next generation of Economic Power Realignment which will permanently alter the future of nations.

Professor Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum noted in January 2016 that “The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

And so, the world is no doubt bracing up for the massive impact the Fourth revolution will bring about, “the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent.

Historical  precedent

“When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of the entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

Several new technologies are changing the way we live in the world today. Some of these technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and biometrics. Yet, today, self-driving cars are becoming a reality- where for instance, an accident is predicted and avoided. One can therefore, imagine what impact this kind of technology can have on the African continent, where vehicular accidents occur on a daily basis. It will certainly reduce the high rate of carnage and loss of lives on our roads.

It is believed that a key feature of the Fourth revolution is that it is going to empower individuals on a scale never before seen in history. It is very likely that the first dollar trillionaire will be made in this revolution.

In the last four years, African and indeed global ICT experts have been provided a platform in the annual Digital Africa Conference & Exhibitions to highlight the avalanche of challenges inhibiting Africa’s efforts at embracing evolving technologies and proffer solutions on how to get out of this digital pessimism.

Come June when this year’s edition will commence, discussion should be a bit intense because Africa can not afford to be caught unawares by the revolution. As a matter of fact this is where Africa should make conscentious effort to escape the unfortunate cycle of economic subjugation that it has regrettably endured for centuries.

*Nneoma Ofodile is General Manager at Digital Africa Global Consult


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