The advent of “cyber-physical systems” or 4IR is well under way, leading businesses, governments and societies to entirely new capabilities for their people and systems. In our last article, we discussed some of the characteristics defining the South African commercial landscape. It’s time to discuss the opportunity.

With 4IR comes new economic implications: skills requirements, technologies, markets, marketing to evolved consumers, all of which have been heavily invested in globally, resulting in an irreversible snowball effect. The opportunity is potential and it is up to our industry to move it into its kinetic state. Innovation, once kinetic, cannot be stopped.

It will empower individuals, businesses and communities, as it creates new opportunities for economic, social and personal development. But it also could lead to the marginalisation of some groups, exacerbate inequality, create unknown security risks and undermine human relationships.

Axiz believes that as industry players it is up to the vendor, distributor and partner ecosystem to ensure these challenges are met head-on, in open forums that include all stakeholders and that enable the technological trajectory of our country, region and continent. How the 4IR progresses will come down to people, culture and values.

Despite advances in technology being undoubtedly disruptive, they also represent a substantive opportunity. South African’s should harness technology to reignite productivity, growth and job creation. But, to leverage the opportunity, concerted action is needed from businesses, government, labour organisations and educational institutions.

For example, companies can now draw from a universe of vendor-specific and generic online learning resources and develop their own, customised programmes for their staff. And their staff can personalise their learning, work in peer groups and study the specialist content they need.

So we’re moving from highly structured, finite learning models to decentralised, agile, flexible, continuous learning and thinking models. Imagine that, the fourth industrial revolution being a grassroots movement propelled by ordinary South Africans and led by the avant-garde, forward-looking local organisations.

The opportunity lies with those willing to lead the way.

Organisations that are smart about tapping into this future-focused energy stand to accelerate productivity and innovation, grow their businesses, build new-generation jobs at scale, and contribute to realising South Africa’s true economic potential. More broadly, the opportunity exists to participate in the ecosystem, driving sustainable change and ensuring South Africans steer how this enormous transformation will find local expression.