We can either be on the precipice of significant change, innovation and changing the prospects of future generations for good or, more frighteningly, on the precipice of obsolescence.

Just 10 countries account for 90% of all global patents and 70% of all exports directly associated with the advanced digital production (ADP) technologies that are driving the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). Another 40 are actively engaging in these technologies. Still, the rest of the world remains mostly excluded from technological breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, the Internet of things (IOT), advanced robotics and additive manufacturing.

Herein lies the problem – innovation must be embraced and encouraged. The search for new and better methods, technologies and practices need to be foremost in our minds. The advance of technology – including machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced robotics – is vast, rapid and unstoppable. A key challenge is that the country has been slow to nurture the skills needed for companies to compete and grow in an increasingly technology-driven world.

As we embark on the transition to automation, the reality is we are lagging behind our international competitors in the adoption of 4IR technology. In the South African and even African context, we need to rethink and readjust our attitudes towards innovations like AI and automation. We need to balance the real and tangible fear faced by millions of workers with the prospects of the labour force of the future.

Automation offers opportunities to bring benefits to workers. With the shift to robotics and automation comes opportunities for reskilling, and chances for people to flourish in design, building and programming robotics, and automation and data technologies. The wealth gap is directly and inescapably proportional to the advanced technology gap between societies; to fix this, we must adapt and do so at a much faster rate. There needs to be a change in the attitude that labour and advances in technology are at loggerheads.

As technology practitioners, Axiz has been at the forefront of providing data and insight-driven innovations in the market. We understand that due to the complexity of these advances, companies are overwhelmed and their progress on the technological ladder remains limited. The fourth industrial revolution will exacerbate this phenomenon because, in reality, it represents an elevator in a building with infinite floors and subsequently, even more rooms.

Productivity, economic growth and ultimately job creation and higher earnings will flow to those entities that can get on said 4IR elevator and capitalise on new technologies. We, the market, need to create safe spaces for dialogue and proof of concept so that critical mass is created and more individuals and businesses understand what’s at stake – the future.

The latecomers and laggards can only catch up with support oriented towards building basic, intermediate and advanced industrial and technological capabilities, together with digital infrastructure. Enter Axiz. As a technology distributor, Axiz is perfectly placed to help resellers and their clients make sense of it all and take advantage of the current and imminent advances characterising 4IR. Our digitisation drive has led companies in public and private sectors to better efficiencies and began to transform the very bedrock upon which their profitability and objective-driven results are founded.