How to prepare our children for a digital future
Written by JP Boshoff
FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION CREATES EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES
For businesses in all industries, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will eliminate human error, minimise waste and reduce costs. For employees, however, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) holds threats of uncertainty and disruption. This is especially true in South Africa, which faces immense challenges in finding employment for a growing working-age population.
ALL JOB TYPES UNDER THREAT
Most economists have long agreed that unskilled, repetitive, physical tasks are at the highest risk of being threatened by digital disruption. More recently, however, jobs in cognitive and knowledge-based fields like diagnostic medicine, accounting and law are being threatened, too. Software programs will be able to perform many tasks in these fields, instantly replacing the labour of every employee, not just a small subset of employees.
In industries where repetitive, physical labour is required (such as mining, manufacturing and farming) as well as in knowledge-based work, employees will have to become skilled in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining automated processes.
PREPARING FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Thankfully, these new technologies will also create opportunities if approached proactively. At the 2019 Digital Economy Summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined the South African government’s plans to introduce subjects such as robotics, data science, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and others to the South African school curriculum. Such developments give hope that young South Africans will be equipped to navigate the digital economy of the future successfully.
DEVELOPING SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE
Despite the threats faced, 4IR will transform fields across society in ways we can scarcely imagine now. If we want to prepare our children for this digital future, we should help them:
This will make them invaluable among their robotic, digital co-workers of the future.