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The proverbial 4th industrial revolution (4IR)

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The proverbial 4th industrial revolution (4IR)

The proverbial 4th industrial revolution (4IR) has been well documented as a fast-approaching phenomenon, businesses all around the world should be conscious of. The phrase which was officially coined by the world economic forum is relatively well known amongst the average person. Most people have a high-level grasp of what 4IR entails. But what most people don’t know, is the first 3 industrial revolutions that precede this last one we experiencing. 

But 1st let’s begin with a basic understanding of what is an industrial revolution? Simply put, an industrial revolution is an introduction of an invention that became a watershed and a landmark shift in the way in which industries could produce. Just a quick recap across the historical timeline of the first 3 industrial revolutions.  

  • 1st Industrial revolution: Invention of Steam engine. The combination of Coal, water and Steam allow a break-through in regards to larger scale production and development of cities 
  • 2nd Industrial revolution: Invention of electricity followed by the internal combustion engine. This was the birth of commercial product lines in manufacturing as well as the automobile. 
  • 3rd Industrial revolution: Invention of computers. This was the birth of digital systems that revolutionized information sharing or dissemination. Tailgated by the birth of the internet.

Each of the revolutions were game changers in their own respective ways. However, 4IR is probably the most publicised and wide-spread in its generation based on two main reasons: 

  1. Global economy: 1st, 2nd and 3rd world countries are all simultaneously affected by the phenomena based on trade agreements. Whereas in the 1st three revolutions, the originated mostly in western countries then cascaded and affecting the rest of the world much later. 
  2. Information age: The internet era exponentially eccelerates the rate of information dissemination. Unlike previous industrial revolutions, the entire globe recieve real-time developments regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, genome editing, renewable energy, biometrics and the internet of things (IoT).

The 4IR topic is essentially a broad conversation and one that is still very much unfolding. I believe it has to be viewed in the context of where we are as a country and then take a modular approach to introduce these technologies to the spaces and especially small businesses that need them. Helping SME’s leverage existing technologies and platforms to digitize processes is the 1st step adapting to 4IR. 

SME’s initially have to be equipped with access to relevant skills, software and applications for efficient operations, marketing, communications and project management. Thereafter a scaled approach to introduce more complex and progressing technologies within the 4IR will not be an unrealistic the jump.

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