Job creation, skills development and improving education are all topics one expects a president to touch on in their State of the Nation Address. Last week, President Ramaphosa raised his government’s strategy to deal with these concerns and more in his second SONA. What was most noticeable about this particular edition of the annual address was that the president weaved into his narrative the role that technology will play in improving and providing these services to South Africans as we head into the 4thIndustrial revolution.
“I think his speech set the tone for the rebuilding of business confidence,” says Tarsus Technology Group CEO, Miles Crisp. “And no one will invest unless there’s a feeling of confidence.”
Technology and education, hand-in-hand
There’s never been a more technophilic SONA in the history of democratic South Africa, with emphasis placed on the much-anticipated auction of the radio spectrum. This, in turn, should see an increased rollout of broadband to rural areas, allowing more citizens to participate in the digital future of the country.
“Technology doesn’t go anywhere without educated people,” says Miles “What is gratifying is that the president went into some detail about spending in education.” Indeed, besides just spending, Ramaphosa is aiming to ensure that many previously disadvantaged areas and schools are equipped to educate children in such a way as to prepare them for a world of automation and AI. He pledged that emphasis would be placed on technology subjects, maths and science to prepare children for the jobs of tomorrow.
Alongside improving education through, and for, a digitally-driven future, Ramaphosa also tabled the provision of digital business development hubs in townships and rural areas, in order to allow young entrepreneurs to incubate their innovations and stimulate the economy on a micro level. “At Tarsus, we’re generalists,” says Miles “We’re enablers of these sorts of initiatives, whether it’s creating a data centre or moving government processes to the cloud, it presents an opportunity to participate.”
A digital government
“Ramaphosa did specifically speak about gearing government towards digitisation with a level of detail on how they are going to progress with the infrastructure of digitisation,” he adds. Some of these practical steps were already implemented last year, with the ICT Commission and the consolidation of the Department of Communication. Ramaphosa went one step further during SONA by also creating the Presidential Commission for the 4thIndustrial Revolution.
There’s good reason to ensure that government, and the country as a whole, goes digital. According to a study conducted by Accenture, prioritising evolving technologies has the potential to unlock R5 trillion in value for industries across the country over the next ten years
The sentiment behind the drive to put technology at the heart of South Africa’s growth strategy is summarised in Ramaphosa’s SONA statement that government will be: “developing the technology and capabilities to build a dynamic and competitive economy that creates sustainable jobs.” While many in the technology industry are cautiously optimistic about these allusions, it certainly seems like the president has his eyes firmly fixed on the (digital) future.