Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution South Africa

Focus areas

The five focus areas for co-designing and piloting policy frameworks and governance protocols by the C4IR SA are:

Data Policy

The fourth industrial revolution has already had a profound impact on global trade, economic growth and social progress. On one hand, the ability of data to move across borders underpins new business models, boosting the global gross domestic product by 10% in the last decade alone. However, digital trade barriers, including outdated regulations, fragmented governance and strict data localisation policies could potentially hamper these gains.

As data is increasingly generated and collected globally, businesses require clearer and more practical data governance protocols, such as embracing open data – particularly the releasing of public data for use by entrepreneurs; developing infrastructure and skills to enable South Africa to be a hub of data economy in Africa and globally; creating a conducive environment for investment, i.e. ease of doing business in data economy and policy certainty; creating a capable state that deals decisively with addressing ills such as crime and corruption, as well as inequality and transformation; and creating a social compact to develop and co-create policy. At the same time, policymakers need better tools to develop future-oriented and agile frameworks for data regulation that will allow for innovation, but protect individual privacy; promote inclusion; securing data against cybercriminals; and enable data sharing in public service.

The Data Policy portfolio focuses on maximising the humanitarian and beneficial uses of data, while seeking to develop practical solutions using a multi-stakeholder approach to policymaking. Data Policy is a cross-cutting portfolio; therefore the governance protocols that can be put in place in this platform may have an impact on the other three platforms, namely the Internet of Things (IoT), which generates data; artificial intelligence (AI), which learns from data; and blockchain, which is a mechanism used to reliably capture a data transaction history in a distributed manner.

Projects being explored at the C4IR-SA include the protection of personal data; models and ownership and the monetisation thereof; and data access models, including open data model for societal value.

Projects in the C4IR global network include a Data Policy toolkit; general data protection regulation for the fourth industrial revolution; cross border data flows and re-imagining consent and trustworthy data for the common good.

IoT, robotics and smart cities

There are more connected devices in the world today than humans. It is projected that by 2025 they will exceed 40 billion. As IoT technologies continue to spread across all aspects of day-to-day life, and even become embedded in the human body, questions regarding data ownership, cybersecurity, accuracy and privacy protection take on newfound urgency and importance. Similarly, in an interconnected world where electric grids, public infrastructure, vehicles, homes and workplaces can be accessed and controlled remotely, the vulnerability to cyberattacks and the potential for these security breaches to cause serious harm are unprecedented.

Infrastructure deployments to support IoT are driven mainly by large industry players, leading to economic benefits from data generated by IoT, but enjoyed mostly by large industry players. Promotion of the use of IoT by small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in several industries is a high priority in South Africa and in many emerging economies.

Projects being explored at the C4IR-SA include the promotion of IoT use by SMMEs in the modernisation of the manufacturing sector, service economy and social services; asset management and utilisation monitoring to enable preventative maintenance; and supply chain transparency.

Projects in the C4IR Global Network include creating market incentives for secure industrial IoT; accelerating the impact of IoT technologies; forging a new social contract for smart cities; unlocking the shared value of IoT data; building trust in consumer IoT; enabling an inclusive roll-out of 5G and next-generation connectivity.

Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT)

Blockchain, an early stage technology that enables the decentralised and secure storage and transfer of information, has the potential to be a powerful tool for tracking transactions that can minimise friction, reduce corruption, increase trust and empower users. Cryptocurrencies built on DLTs have emerged as potential gateways to new wealth creation and disrupters across financial markets. Other revolutionary use cases are being explored in almost every sector, ranging from energy to shipping to media. By taking a systemic and inclusive approach to this technology, it is possible to ensure that everyone – from the most marginalised members of society to the most powerful – benefits from its transformative potential.

Projects being explored at the C4IR-SA include digital identity and certification; asset registration and management; and unlocking transparency through end-to-end view of the supply chain.

Projects in the C4IR Global Network include interoperability, integrity, and inclusion: blockchain for supply chains; central banks in the age of blockchain; unlocking transparency; re-imagining data ownership and economic models in the token economy; and digital identity and certification.

AI and machine learning (ML)

AI is the software engine that drives the fourth industrial revolution. Its impact can already be seen in homes, businesses and political processes. It holds the promise of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society, but also presents challenges such as inscrutable “black box” algorithms, unethical use of data and potential job displacement. ML is the subfield of AI that focuses on giving computer systems the ability to learn from data. As rapid advances in ML increase, the scope and scale of AI’s deployment across all aspects of daily life, and as the technology itself can learn and change on its own. Multi-stakeholder collaboration is required to optimise accountability, transparency, privacy and impartiality to create trust. The AI/ML portfolio aims to support the development of policy frameworks and governance protocols to accelerate the societal benefits and mitigate the risks of AI and, in particular, ML.

Projects being explored at the C4IR-SA include empowering AI leadership; teaching responsible AI; use of AI in the audit and monitoring of the implementation and practice of healthcare; and gathering of insights for government systems at national, provincial and local levels.

Projects in the C4IR Global Network include empowering AI leadership; unlocking public sector AI; generation AI: standards for protecting children; re-imagining the regulator; data marketplace for AI; teaching responsible AI; and the ethics switch.

Autonomous and Urban Mobility

Autonomous vehicles (AV) have the potential to improve road safety, decrease pollution levels, reduce congestion and transform the design of cities. With the proper parameters in place, AVs can be safer, more efficient and more economical than vehicles today. However, transitioning to autonomous vehicles involves a disruptive shift that is bound to reshape public and private transportation systems, leaving many players behind if they fail to keep pacewith emerging technologies. Collaboration among business and government leaders is needed to jointly identify the best strategies for accelerating the adoption of autonomous mobility in a safe, clean and inclusive manner.

Drones have the potential to transform business models and tackle societal challenges around the globe, governments are struggling to find ways to encourage innovation while maintaining public safety and confidence. Large companies, as well as a growing start-up ecosystem, are hindered in their ability to invest and expand. Enabling millions of manned and unmanned aircraft to fly concurrently will also require new types of airspace management, physical infrastructure, and privacy and data ownership policies. Laying the right policy foundation and platforms for industry cooperation today, both through smart government regulation and industry-driven standards, will accelerate the adoption of new use cases and business models once the enabling technology and infrastructure are mature.

Global network project areas include: Data for AV Safety, Global New Mobility Coalition; Preparing for AVs; Activating Seamless Integrated Mobility; Rural Mobility; New Paradigms for Drone Regulation; Medicine from the Sky; Urban Aerial Mobility Challenge.

Possible projects will focus on areas including safety regulations, societal benefits, equality and access, infrastructure readiness, shaping urban mobility choices and data governance and security