Leaping into the Fourth Industrial Revolution

“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that is originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory and is based on biological theory which is a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection for species. However, this analogy holds good in all fields, since we are all facing unprecedented challenges in social, economic and environmental domains which needs critical & intelligent thinking. This also holds true for the tech-sector which has become highly intelligent and is aligned itself to the demand of Industry 4.0 (intelligent industry) focusing on innovations, equipped with tools such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI0, nano-technology, blockchain, bio-technology, the Internet of Things, Virtual reality, and 3D-printing

With technology changing faster than anything in the world, devices and gadgets are becoming obsolete at a faster pace than ever. It becomes important for developing countries, like Ethiopia, to pause and reassess where they stand from the perspective of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the age of Intelligent Industrialization (Industry 4.0). For developing countries, the biggest opportunity lies in their ability to use the power of smart and intelligent ICT tools to embrace the lives of citizens leading to provide better basic facilities, e-governance and which in turn leads to better income levels and improve quality of life.

The collective name given to the unlimited possibilities of technology innovations and investments, Industry 4.0, connects digital and physical technologies—Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, additive manufacturing, robotics, cloud computing, and others—to drive more flexible, responsive, and interconnected enterprises capable of making informed decisions.

The impact of Industry 4.0 can be varied and intense in developing countries. It has the potential to create opportunities for African manufacturers, cottage industries and small & medium enterprises to come up with new business models and stay relevant in global value chains. Nonetheless, it is not possible to benefit from Industry 4.0 without avoiding numerous obstacles. Given the Africa’s context, governments must ask the right questions to make sure the continent can capitalize on the revolution.

Preparing for Education 4.0
With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, the world is changing every second. Artificial intelligence and the internet are impacting the global industry sector and is shaping the job market. Just as the drastic changes brought by the industrial revolution of the 19th century the replacement of manual activities by machines, the 21st century’s intellectually intensive jobs resulted from fourth industrial revolution.
The fourth industrial revolution will also affect the roles of universities and colleges in preparing students for the job market. In fact, they are ideally placed to help & produce the workforce for the new era.

To benefit from the opportunity created by advanced technology, it is undoubtable the role of the policy makers need to similarly overhaul education – not just to fulfill the demands of industry, but also to guarantee the best possible student experience, use of staff time, and investments which is no different for Ethiopia. This is possible by some well tested practices of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models and Industrial Academic Collaborative models which helps to bring industry relevance to the Academic curriculum, Teacher Training, Courseware, IT enabled methodologies, Projects been implemented as a drive to build the knowledge economy. This industry centric interventions will have a direct & large impact on the internships/job opportunities being created for the youth looking for jobs or business opportunities.

It must be noted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution also involves investments in clean energy, and sustainable modes of development, a path in which Ethiopia is following.

Projected to be Africa’s next powerhouse, Ethiopia cannot afford to lose such an opportunity. With abundant natural resources, including rivers and lakes, the country is blessed with renewables, and this might just be where it will catch up with the developed world through the usage of smart ICT tools. Having said that, it is also important for the country to imbibe the usage of smart ICT enabled policies and produce competent and skilled manpower that can match the country’s economic growth, by focusing on innovations such as robotics, AI, nanotechnology, blockchain, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and 3D-printing, while keeping the momentum in manufacturing, opening up Internet access, broadband, and Research and Development in these areas is also needed.

Given the country’s current economic and social conditions, the education system must build institutions capable of providing relevant education and training opportunities. The fourth industrial revolution will converge man and machine, which will then reduce the subject distance between humanities and social sciences, as well as science and technology, and the new era will require more interdisciplinary teaching, research and innovation.

It is obvious, that the Ethiopian children starting school in 2019/20 will not be able to flourish with the existing education system. Thus, they need to be exposed to digital platform based smart classes and tools using Virtual Reality leading to smart and critical thinking in the subjects of science, math’s, English and social science. In addition to individual wellbeing, they also need to be educated to think of collaborative thinking and collective well-being not restricting them to interacting with teachers and students within the boundaries of their school, but to use social platforms to interact and share experiences with the other schools in the national and international space
To be innovative, aware and responsible, children and young people need to be well-equipped to create new value by developing new, creative and affordable solutions to problems through this experience based reality learning which is more visual. They need to reconcile existing differences that are imperative to diverse communities and cultures by learning to forgive, and balancing freedom and responsibility.
Granted that these are all very complex qualities and are tightly coupled with one another. However, they can all be acquired when properly planned and strategized, which need to be embedded in the education system, as well as the environment where young people grow with their new learning experience they gather at any point of time.

How to fill the skill gap
The world is becoming extremely complex and continuously evolving and technology driven. The World Economic Forum has proposed and taken on a multi-year initiative to reform the current education system to address the problem of children of growing up educated with obsolete skills. To that end, technology based education solutions have been sought.

Of course, the first step is for governments to identify that there is skill gap. This should be followed by the formation of a team of policy makers both from the public and private industries and academicians who will formulate the policies required to make changes in the current education system. The right workforce to implement the policies, that is, a sustainable network of skilled teachers and trainers is also essential. This should be executed with the right financial support to execute the policies and sustainably fund the education budget. Meanwhile, the technological infrastructure, in terms of tools and content, as well as internet access must be ensured, which is possible
For example, the Kenyan educational system has created the DigiSchool project funded by the World Bank which has introduced Digital content and teaching tools to the teaching and students community. The entire national education digitization at the school level is being implemented in three phases and within the next few years will positively give teachers and students the right kind of industry-relevant skills and learning experience.

The South Korean government also has implemented plans that placed major emphasis on human resource improvement, along with increased productivity, infrastructure development and key industry prioritization.

Since those plans were formulated in the 1950s, the South Korean economy underwent a great transformation that is transforming its whole economy in a single generation wherein the country knows a thing or two about disruption, which is why it is now adamant in investing in technologies of the future.

Korea’s commitment to innovative growth was recently reinforced by Seoul’s mayor, Park Won-soon, who introduced a five-year plan to promote the block chain industry. This followed an August 2018 announcement by the government to invest about four billion dollar in various sectors of the domestic economy, including block chain, AI and big data.

8th Year • Jun.16 – July.15 2019 • No. 75

Aajay Alva

is a tech & education expert at Zerihun Associates. He can be reached at aajayalva@gmail.com

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