The Impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution: What’s Your Next?

23 April 2019. Thoughts in Industry by

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, and it is quickly impacting all industries; we can no longer ignore it. People are now under more pressure to continuously upskill themselves in order to survive in this new revolution as there has been a shift in power, wealth and knowledge. As noted by South African technology entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, “The fourth industrial revolution is a fundamental shift in the way that technology, communications, data, and analytics impact almost all aspects of society and the economy” (Rabana, 2018).

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, had the following to say about the Fourth Industrial Revolution: “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rate rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance” (Schwab, 2015). As a result, the fourth industrial revolution has now altered the way we live, communicate and work. People now need to be deliberate about learning and acquiring technological knowledge that will set them apart from the next person, once we have settled into the new technological era. However, more often than not, learners leave school without acquiring adequate digital capabilities and therefore struggle to survive in the workspace.

According to a research paper by the International Journal of Financial Research (2018), the scarcest and most valuable resource in an era driven by digital technologies will be neither ordinary labour nor ordinary capital; instead, it will be those people who can create new ideas and innovations. Recently, Standard Bank released a statement stating that they were going to cut 1 200 jobs and 91 branches as an effort to digitise its retail and business bank (Business Day, 2019). Businesses alike are also doing the same thing because everything is going digital. This is a great loss to deal with as there is already a 29.9% unemployment rate in South Africa, and a large majority of those who are unemployed are graduates that are sitting at home, searching for jobs daily.

Technology is no longer something we can run away from, and it is quickly taking over our lives. The more affluent people in South Africa are at a greater advantage as they have access to the best technological education. UCT conducted a study on children’s digital literacy skills in South Africa. The study, which examined a household in a poorer community in comparison to a wealthier one, showed that the former group “did not see any educational value in children’s digital play” (Boikanyo 2019). However, the Gauteng education system is showing slow improvement, implementing state-of-the-art smart schools in Ekurhuleni and an automotive school launch in Soshanguve, in collaboration with BMW (Sowetan Live).

In South Africa, it has now become more imperative that young people educate themselves about the digital industry. With robotics and artificial intelligence creeping in, there will be a need for people to be at the forefront, leading these innovations. Technology is continuously changing and developing; therefore continuous education is vital. The government and private business have a responsibility to educate the learners at school and to upskill employees.


Boikanyo, M. (2019). The Urgency To Close The Digital Divide Is More Serious Than Ever.

David, J.M., Xu, M. & Kim, H.S. (2018). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges. International Journal of Financial Research, Vol 9: (2)

Rabana, R. (2018). The Impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution on Economic Development Developing A Country Agenda.

Financial Mail. ( 2019).

Njilo, N. (2019). Automotive school to be launched in Soshanguve in partnership with BMW.

Dlamini, P. (2019). Gauteng premier opens state-of-the-art school in Ekurhuleni.


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