Chairperson of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Task Force Prof. Anicia Peters has allayed fears that robots and technological advances are going to perform certain tasks more efficiently and faster, thereby resulting in significant job losses.
“For us, we see it as a transformation of jobs – and with every single revolution, you see that jobs are being transformed. Where we have job losses, we will also have new jobs created and the key factor is upskilling and reskilling,” Peters remarked this week during a briefing at the National Covid-19 Centre.
The professor noted that fears of the general public also venture into the realm of inequality, with many fearing artificial intelligence will widen socio-economic inequalities.
“That is what we need to assess and how to mitigate them,” Peters stated.
Peters pointed out major challenges in Namibia, such as the availability of developmental skills, policy and regulatory framework, particularly for entrepreneurs. She bemoaned a conducive developmental environment and lack of funding to scale up to take advantage of the 4IR.
She further noted that Namibians are not using power intelligence to improve production and livelihoods.
“There will be an assessment to go through laws and policies to make sure they capture the introduction of 4IR. We need to enact our legislation much quicker in Namibia. As the task force, it is crucial to work closely with politicians to understand where we are going and to create a mechanism to be responsive to the rapid advancements on the technological scene,” Peters advised.
Unpacking the 4IR Task Force mission, the chairperson explained previous revolutions, saying the first involved the usage of water and steam to power production, which was essentially the invention of the steam engine. The second was earmarked by the invention of electricity, which was used for mass production.
The third, Peter stated, came with the invention of the internet and information technology with advances made in it.
“So, that was earmarked with connectivity and digitalisation, and that we applied for our mass production. Today, we have rapid advances in technology and a lot of emerging technologies coming up.”
At the same occasion, Jochen Traut, chief operations officer at the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), said it is important that as a regulator they prepare for expected advancements in technology.
Traut said, in this regard, CRAN and all stakeholders need to “be innovative enough”.
He continued that the biggest challenge should be to close the gap between rural and urban areas, as the revolution is emerging.
“There are bright ideas from the rural community; there is the willingness to learn, and there is a need for them to be considered,” he stated.
Earlier this month, President Hage Geingob appointed an eight-member 4IR Task Force, which comprised members from academia, the private sector and the civil society to assist government in harnessing opportunities from the 4IR. - firstname.lastname@example.org