South Africa may have to develop new laws and modernise its policy frameworks to prepare for the radical technological changes that will come with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This is according to the minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who told guests at the Legacy Summit of the Speakers’ Forum at Parliament this week, that existing laws and policy frameworks will have to be modernised to be able to deal with new technological changes.
“We will need to adapt and modernise our existing policies, particularly in the areas of labour market regulation, social protection and welfare,” she said.
Some of the example policies the minister mentioned include:
- Regulations for crypto-currency in the financial sector;
- Regulations surrounding self-driving cars;
- Regulations surrounding autonomous weapons;
- Legislation that sets out data sovereignty (specifically to deal with companies like Facebook);
- A regulatory framework for gene editing technologies.
Addressing lawmakers from national parliament, provincial legislatures, academics and representatives of the European Union and the United Nations, the minister said the biggest fear about the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that more jobs will be destroyed than created.
“How do we re-skill our nation to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need a large pool of skills, men and women of all races,” she said.
“We need lawmakers who are alive to the fact that technology is about to turn societies on their heads.”
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Kubayi-Ngubane also said president Cyril Ramaphosa is putting together a presidential commission to provide advice on preparations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by a merging of technologies, that blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
“We will do well to remember that technology on its own is not an equaliser, it requires laws and regulations for us to achieve a more equal society,” she said.
Speaking at the event, professor Mike Bruton of the Mike Bruton Imagineering Science Development Centre, added that parliamentarians should appreciate the opportunities provided by science and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
He said it was important for the legislative sector to understand both problems and opportunities, and recognise the importance of a strong science culture in deepening democracy.
“The legislative sector must recognise the crucial role of science in achieving the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and appreciate the opportunity of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is a problem-solving revolution,” he said.
He added that it is healthy for scientists and politicians to disagree with one another and to propose alternative ideas for the explanation of the same facts.
“Science helps solve complex problems like poverty, digital divide, climate change, biodiversity loss, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive plants and animals,” said Bruton.