The 4th Industrial Revolution: How Do We Begin?

Drop It, Lets Talk Fintech

Onkabetse Gwamulumba

Thanks to social media, 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is now a household concept known by Batswana across all spectra. Starting the conversation around it is not hard at all. But like all professionally written columns, we need to do some justice and dissect the 4IR.

The Origins of 4IR

4IR is a continuum of previously existing economic revolutions. The first revolution was simply the genesis of industrial mechanized production. But the writers often leave the Ground Zero production to mere imagination and chose to mention nothing at all; this was the Agricultural economic phase (In the region where we find Botswana now the economic activity was by Hunters & Gatherers and later on improved to agriculture – Crops & Animal Husbandry). When the first revolution ensured, obviously there were many failures that have never been documented. Some ideas were shelved and never saw life. In the end, the need to mechanize some factors needed in production became a need. Mass production was needed. We need to understand the fundamental need that pushed for Revolutions. The first Industrial Revolution simply needed to mechanize production. This mechanization was based on trial and error, I know this because during those times, the test trials (stress tests) could not be maximally permuted.

The second Industrial Revolution rode on the might of electric power for mass production. The 1st Industrial Revolution maximized abundance of Water & Steam power (Coal). Electricity generation was pioneered by the famous Michael Faraday. And trust me it was not easy for him to convince those in power at the time, or the skeptics. Newspapers were printed a century earlier, and you can imagine the ridicule that was thrown at Faraday for his vision on electricity distribution. Well. The 3rd Industrial Revolution was a game changer. A futuristic novel idea for production that would go a long way. This was based on electronics and Information Technology in effort to automate production.

Now, 4IR is simply a fusion of all the past industrial revolutions & economic situations that the world endured; just improved and made better through digitization. All these revolutions have something in common. Cheap Input costs. 1IR had water & coal as inputs. 2IR had Copper as the cheap input. 3IR had microelectronics as cheap inputs. In my view the cheap input for 4IR is Data. Technology development is largely dependent on long hours of product development and as it were, data is the vital input needed to guide production under 4IR.

Now our Conversation has officially begun!

We note that there is a relationship amongst all the revolutions, including the founding Economic Activity. How many sectors are affected by 4IR, and what exactly should an ordinary Motswana be focusing on when 4IR is mentioned? Many people in the social media space indicate that 4IR is usage of Zoom & plethora of other video conferencing technology, fingerprint access to buildings et al; but, is it?

The 4th Industrial Revolution: Is this for the elite?
There is a common adage that has become very intelligible when said. It is around idea generation. William Arthur Ward is credited as the one that coined the official version and it goes “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you dream it, you can become it.”

An idea first comes to life in a prototype format, the public keeps a blind eye to it and normally interact with it when its on the shelves. I am a car enthusiast. When the new huge BMW grille was presented at car shows, consumers made less noise, and have of late come to make noise about it. Well. Someone out there is already on the next level designing something, maybe mirrors that are more intelligent than the current ones. The difference between these seers known as designers and the consumers gives you a Businessman. A good businessman profiles needs of his customers and sell solutions to the problems and the complaints by the customers. Riding on the concept of cars, car enthusiasts know that it is a bad idea to buy a breaking model, rather it is better to buy the facelift model that essentially is a correction of the breaking model.

4IR is not for the elite. It is the solution between what consumers are complaining about and what the designers have in store. Nowadays reinventing the wheel is not necessary at all. For software there is overabundance supply of open source software – for your research you can visit just to get the sense. That is just elementary in this world of open source software, go out there and look for more. The focus one must obsess with is around idea generation; imagine it as much as possible. Dream! Once you have identified the true gaps that your solution aims to address, trust me you have entered the realm of 4IR. 4IR is more about problem solving that it is to delve on being elite or for select few.

We can now quickly do a self-check of whether indeed the 4IR is not for the elite. We can start with literacy. Batswana have reached a reasonable literacy level. This ticks the box. The youthful have an average understanding of using, an application, a mobile phone and a computer. This ticks the box of being somewhat IT literate. Let us take a Zoom call as an example. A host sends a URL, and, in most cases, they send this URL through a meeting invite with a Password. How many people can fail to connect to this meeting? In my view, less than 5% of the IT literate. This ticks a box of being IT literate. We can confidently remark that almost everyone that has access to a computer or to a smart phone can have access to data. Remember data is the primary input that boosts production in 4IR environment!

Right now, as the players in the 4IR up their ante, one of the most interesting one unfolding in the developing countries is around using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to eliminate redundancy in areas such as law. One of the Achilles heel acknowledged by Governments across the globe is the delay in justice. “Justice delayed is justice denied”. So, this surely is not necessarily for the elite in a sense that the gap exists, and it will take a brave Businessman to imagine it and dream it. But what is stopping us to tap into such exciting opportunity?

Looking forward our next continuum…