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Being future-fit enough to compete in SA’s digital revolution

Training and the development of 4IR skill sets will be central to successful digital transformation in business. These skills are essential to ensuring that companies remain relevant and competitive within the unfolding digital revolution.

This is according to a recent virtual panel discussion involving Professor Josef Langerman - Transformation Specialist at Standard Bank Group; Dion Harvey – Regional GM at Red Hat SSA; Steve Briggs – Chief Commercial Officer at SEACOM; as well as Arthur Wade Anderson – Chief Commercial Officer at Forge Academy.

The panel considered how 4IR creates opportunities to harness converging technologies for an all-inclusive future.

Panelists focused on 'being future-fit' – in other words, transforming organisations and businesses but transforming them for the right purpose.

“Transformation for the sense of financial gain or cost savings, I think, misses the opportunity. And yes, COVID, has been the catalyst for a rethink of how we do things, how we work with our staff, how we work with our customers…. But for me, future fit is an introspective moment and a transitional journey about change that embraces aspects of how we work, how we lead, how we put our customers back in the centre of what it is that we are and why we exist,” said Harvey.

Professor Langerman said from the Bank’s point of view, the most important thing is customer experience. “They want a seamless experience, so for us as a bank, future fit means firstly to have this integrated user experience, to know who you are and take you on a journey seamlessly, and the bank’s silos and the bank’s complexity is hidden to you. You also need to get operational efficiency, you need to take this myriad of systems you have, silos across the organisation, and consolidate those to have a ‘operational backbone’, something you can build on that is lean, mean.”

Anderson said the Academy is collaborating with industry partners in retail (VR tech in malls) agriculture (telemetry, IOT to start talking to remote spaces and entrench lucrative farming practices) and manufacturing (tapping into R&D and expertise), as well as smart city development.

Anderson acknowledged that while there has been some progress in technology development and application, there were still areas that needed attention – and getting people involved in these areas remained a challenge.

“Our entire mission is to make sure that young people that are graduating from our universities and from high school can contribute in a meaningful way to some of the innovation that needs to happen here.”

One of the ways this is being done is through IOT-based initiatives like the Kagiso AgriTek project, which involves in the deployment of hubs or micro boxes through which learners are able to develop apps, discover how put the necessary tools on the app and “create a connected world for themselves” and showcase what technology can do for communities.

“If we set up these little micro boxes in the communities, the fourth industrial revolution becomes real to them, it becomes something tangible ‘cause they get to see how they can use the toolsets to improve their own lives,” Anderson said.

Forge is also looking closely at 3D printing, industrial robotics and augmented reality, “I wanted to start out with a basic robot, teach them the basic principles of how to use robotics and then use the 3D printing … this we see as a huge opportunity for young people living out in the periphery, living close to mining communities who obviously don’t get the opportunity to participate in where the future of mining is going.”

“Robotics is the future, mechanical mining is the future, but we need to get our young people trained up in these spaces,” Anderson added.

He also emphasised the need for businesses to include the role of people in their efforts and processes to become future fit.

“The responsibility and accountability by big companies to ensure that people – and understand that as much as its technology that underpins everything – that people remain included in this. I am seeing that there’s a growth in that, in terms of giving the attention to bring the people in,” Anderson continued.

He said from a social enterprise point of view, positioning to be future fit means ensuring that people are informed, that they are trained, relevant and ready for what’s to come. 

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