Fourth Industrial Revolution: Is Africa Ready?

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By Nneoma Ofodile
Some people have argued over time that it is almost impossible to imagine what the world would look like if the effects of the Industrial Revolution which took place from the 18th to the 19th centuries in Britain and America, were swept away.
It was an era in which machines changed people’s way of life as well as their methods of manufacturing things. Just imagine a world without electric lights, telephones, television, radios, automobiles and airplanes. It would certainly be a world still in the dark ages. 
Developments in the world have shown that in every period of 100 years, a revolution occurs which alters the economic alignment of the world. For instance, the first revolution made Great Britain a global super power. The second led to the establishment of the dominance of America as the worlds’ only super power. The third revolution unleashed the wave of globalization that has lifted over a billion people out of poverty in less than 50 years.
It is predicted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to let loose the next generation of Economic Power Realignment which will permanently alter the future of nations.
Professor Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum noted in January 2016 that “The First Industrial Revolution used steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production.
The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” 
And so, the world is no doubt bracing up for the massive impact the Fourth revolution will bring about just like the World Economic Forum observed, “the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.
Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”
Writing about his experience at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, CES in Las Vegas, United States of America, Dr. Evans Woherem, Executive Chairman of Digital Africa Global Consult observed that with the avalanche of technology applications being introduced into the world almost on daily basis, the technology world seemed to be on steroids.
According to him, several new technologies are changing the way we live in the world today. Some of these technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and biometrics. Yet, today, self-driving cars are becoming a reality- where for instance, an accident is predicted and avoided. One can therefore, imagine what impact this kind of technology can have on the African continent, where vehicular accidents occur on daily basis. It will certainly reduce the high rate of carnage and loss of lives on our roads.
Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition is an annual assembly of the leading companies and government agencies involved in the promotion and development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector throughout Africa.
In the last four years, African and indeed global ICT experts have been provided a platform in the annual Digital Africa Conference & Exhibitions to highlight the avalanche of challenges inhibiting Africa’s efforts at embracing evolving technologies and proffer solutions on how to get out of this digital pessimism.
As an advocate for digital technology, the aim of the organisers is to promote the adoption, diffusion, and active development of digital technology in Africa. In addition, it aims to make Africa an active participant in the creation and use of technology and for this purpose, bring business leaders and organizations together to facilitate the continued, responsible growth of the African economy through the development of the technology industry.
It is believed that a key feature of the Fourth revolution is that it is going to empower individuals on a scale never before seen in history. It is very likely that the first dollar trillionaire will be made in this revolution. 
Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition 2017 is therefore, designed to help Africans escape the unfortunate cycle of economic subjugation that it has regrettably endured for centuries. 
Billed for June 6-8, 2017, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Conference Centre, Abuja, the Conference will bring African and International experts together to address how new technologies will affect our lives and reshape our economic, social, cultural, and human environments.
It is obbvious that unless something dramatic happens, or the developed/emerging countries willingly transfer their technology know-how about these new technologies at play to Africa, to solve some of its severe problems of diseases, drought, poor agriculture yields, malnutrition, unemployment, poverty, and so on, there is no way the Continent can be part of this Revolution or enjoy the advantages and optimism listed above.  
Dr. Evans Woherem, Executive Chairman of Digital Africa Global Consult, organizers of the annual Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition while explaining why this year’s edition is focusing on the “The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Getting Africa Ready,” said “The rapid urbanization of African cities will put lots of challenges on transportation and urban roads. Technology will serve as a solution to these challenges.
The advent of driverless/connected cars provide solutions to road accidents as these vehicles would be intelligent enough to detect and avoid road accidents. Again 5G technology plays a big role here as it would serve as the enabling technology to handle big data analytics which is a key component of driverless cars, as it allows the personalization of each driver’s experience.
“In Nigeria today, the Engineering taught at our Universities needs to be seriously revised to be in alignment to the driving exponential technologies fueling the disruptive changes we have currently began to witness or that we are about to begin to experience. Our young students, and youth in general, need to be given environments like those provided by Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab and the TechShops in the US, to start putting their ideas through the invention process.  Given the gulf between us (developing countries in Africa) and the more developed world, how can we really compete with the rest of the world?
“For us to become developed is a serious business.
It means meticulous planning, a firm resolve or will power by all the stakeholders, especially the government, and painstaking execution, regardless of changes in government. As long as we continue to give the business of developing our countries little priority and more priority to politics and regionalism, then we are postponing the dates for our development or even kissing it good bye.”
It is therefore, imperative that the African Continent takes technological development seriously as we eagerly wait to embrace this all-changing revolution. African countries should now begin to make technological development a thing of urgent priority. 
What it means is that each African country needs to pursue ICT with a lot of seriousness as it will act as a catalyst for the development of other technologies, as well as all the other sectors of their economies. The time is ripe for each African country to evolve into a developed country status. 
And it was in this light that Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition was created to build a platform for an annual technology show aimed at bringing together exhibitors from Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world to Abuja to showcase their new innovations. It also provides a platform through which organizations can come to speak on their innovations, as well as a platform for people to gather to listen to presentations from experts from across the world and discuss how to evolve Africa’s technology ecosystem. 
All these aim towards helping Africa to bridge the gap currently in existence between the continent and the rest of the world with regards to ICT, and of course, prepare the Continent for the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution.
***Nneoma Ofodile is General Manager at Digital Africa Global Consult

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