South Africa must build its skills base in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry if it is to cement its position in the fourth industrial revolution.
“As we exist in the digital age and in the midst of a universe that is continuously shrinking to become a global village, ICT and innovation are elements that underpin our future growth and development.
“If we are to dream of a brighter future for our country, it is essential that training in ICT and business development become integral in our education system. That is the best way we can cultivate the landscape for the prosperity of future innovators,” said Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, on Tuesday.
The Minister hosted a National Development Plan (NDP) Youth Ambassador Masterclass in Bryanston. The event was organised under the theme, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution as a Disruptor and Opportunity’.
South Africa sees the ICT industry as key to the country’s future growth, Africa and the globe. It arguably has the biggest potential to change the lives of millions of young people, as it continues to produce jobs that were not even thought possible a few years ago.
The potential of the ICT industry is a source of positive news for South African youth, as they remain the hardest hit by the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The latest statistics indicate that 48% of South African youth are unemployed.
Minister Radebe said these are some of the challenges that must collectively be addressed with the urgency they deserve.
“We must raise a new generation of young people that will not be job seekers but job creators. We need innovative young entrepreneurs who will play a significant role in the renewal of our economy. Entrepreneurship is a fundamental endeavour for economic emancipation.
“It is our local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow in order to have an inclusive economy.”
Future projections indicate that an estimated 65% of children entering primary school today will most likely work in roles that do not yet exist. This, Minister Radebe said, is a significant opportunity for youth development.
“We must expose the youth to as wide a variety of technological innovations as possible. Any initiative that seeks to empower the youth is an investment towards the future of our country.”
Minister Radebe said the gathering was a vital step towards getting the country ready to fully and effectively participate in the fourth industrial revolution.
“It is the youth who stand to benefit the most from this [fourth industrial] revolution. It is for this reason that the youth must occupy the frontline trenches. One of the most significant tenets of the fourth industrial revolution is the power of ICT in transforming lives.”
ICT for clean governance
Minister Radebe said the fourth industrial revolution will transform societies and empower individuals, companies and governments in ways that were previously unthinkable.
He said the power of technology must be used to transform businesses and enhance good, accountable and transparent governance across the African continent.
“As government, we are well aware that we cannot thrive administratively without incorporating technological innovations. We are constantly on the lookout for new inventions in order to enhance the effectiveness of our operations to improve the lives of the people of South Africa.
“Technology reminds us that life is not static. Technological innovations teach us that learning is a lifelong experience. It challenges us to always push the boundaries and expand our horizons of knowledge.”
Minister Radebe said focus must be on investing in skills development so that young men and women are groomed to become exceptional innovators, who will go on to make a meaningful contribution to the economic growth of the country.
Youth brand ambassadors
Minister Radebe used the platform to announce that the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) will in September launch the NDP brand ambassador programme.
The programme will include young people who boast exceptional achievements in diverse industries.
The NDP brand ambassador programme is an endeavour aimed at providing a platform for young people to share ideas that will take South Africa forward.