The Coucil for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is home to the South African Fourth Industrial Revolution Centre (SA-C4IR), the first World Economic Forum’s (WEF) affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) Network in Africa. South Africa joins other countries such as China, India and Japan, which also host centres such as this one.
In April 2019, the Minister of the former Department of Science and Technology Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, hosted WEF’s Head of C4IR Network, Murat Sönmez, met with various industry representatives at a consultation meeting to garner support for the establishment of the Centre. The SA-C4IR is currently being operationalised and will be launched officially in March 2020.
The purpose of the SA-C4IR is to accelerate the benefits and minimise the risks of emerging technologies. This is achieved by expanding stakeholder engagement to include all institutions advancing public-private cooperation on the governance of emerging technologies.
In November 2019, the CSIR, in collaboration with Deloitte and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) hosted delegates from both the public and private sectors to introduce the SA-C4IR and its role in the innovation chain. The session was held at the CSIR Knowledge Commons in Pretoria and highlighted priorities and operational models for the Centre under the guidance of and with input from different stakeholders across industries. This was the second such workshop, after a highly successful event in Cape Town in September, held on the fringes of the WEF Africa Conference.
CSIR Group Manager: Planning and Knowledge Management, Dr Daniel Visser, and Deloitte’s Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Valter Adao, directed the programme, while the DSI’s Deputy Director-General: Socioeconomic Innovation Partnerships, Imraan Patel, opened the proceedings by providing context and expectations from government.
“This workshop is a space that seeks to align the SA-C4IR to the broader approach of the WEF C4IR global network. This is a space where players from different sectors can converge to find answers to different challenges. We also want this space to shape relevant technology governance structures, data policy, privacy and other regulatory frameworks to allow the emerging technologies to grow in an enabling environment,” said Imraan.
Other stakeholders present at the workshop included representatives from Rand Merchant Bank, Standard Bank, National Treasury, Old Mutual, The Presidency, Internet of Things Industry Council and Payments Association of South Africa.
“In the 4IR, technologies are being developed very quickly, which calls for the need to create agile policies and technology frameworks to be able to govern these technologies. The SA-C4IR is going to be bringing stakeholders from public, private and civil sectors together and developing governance structures and platforms to deal with all aspects of technology governance and policy, in line with global best practice,” added Daniel.
The CSIR’s focus areas for the 4IR include applying technologies for improved service delivery, training the future workforce, and developing and implementing scalable 4IR infrastructure.