A few days ago we were listening to a radio interview with a man who has devoted most of his life to helping shack dwellers improve their quality of life. He mentioned one lady who (after her shack which was destroyed by a storm and replaced by him) as saying: “This is the first time in my life I have had more than one room and a proper floor”. But not only did the shack have a floor but it also had openable windows and an insulated roof, rarities in the shack dwelling communities where conditions have hardly changed since 1994.
One thing we are sure of is that the owner of this new “luxurious” shack did not request was a garage to house her intended purchase of future technology such as an autonomous car. Nor would she have known that the industry hyped technology associated with the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” will never come in its entirety to her township or to millions of other South Africans !
So how will South Africa cope with 5G and this 4th Industrial revolution? Not very well we think.
Firstly Eskom needs to be dealt with. We note that this is now a priority of the Government and we, the paying consumers, must fund the Eskom fiasco. Could it be that once 5G technology is in place the government will face the dilemma of introducing inevitable rolling blackouts only to urban and rural areas where there is insufficient profitability to warrant a 5G service?
South Africa’s most recent effort to build a smart city did not go according to plan, and was eventually aborted.
While difficult to know how day-to-day life will change as a result of living in a “smart city,” the issues described below are certainly worth learning more about. What should residents expect as tangible benefits? What will be the costs? What blind spots may exist among well-intentioned leaders making decisions, and will there be unintended (or consciously dismissed) harms resulting from these initiatives?
Will South African municipalities have the finances to pay a ransom?
Overseas cities have increasingly faced cyberattacks, with hackers freezing systems and demanding ransom.
This is the latest in a string of cyberattacks that have frozen city systems. Baltimore recently refused to pay a $76,000 ransom to stop a malware attack, and similar cybercrimes have targeted Atlanta, Allentown, PA and Medford, OR. Hackers have also targeted hospitals and transportation hubs like the Port of San Diego.
According to the Palm Beach Post, the Florida village Palm Springs paid an undisclosed ransom in response to a 2018 attack, but still lost two years of data. https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/florida-city-agrees-to-pay-hackers-600k-after-malware-attack/557338/?fbclid=IwAR1m9XEPskjHfu-KBGwm2HbrWeuw7FcAru_-4mMd3MIFMjmaNhhwt_zkqiU
As for the industry promise of 5G and the 4IR assisting with the NHI rollout – should we not ensure that basic healthcare is accessible to everyone first? In other words properly functioning hospitals – where patients are not required to supply their own linen and food?
In March this year, Equal Education called for the dismissal of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, citing the minister’s failure to deliver on the 2013 Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure law, which sets out deadlines for fixing infrastructure in schools. The organisation cited the tragic deaths of 5-year-olds Michael Komape and Lumka Mketwa — who both drowned in pit latrines while at school in 2014 and 2018 respectively — as evidence of the department’s, and by extension Motshekga’s, “broken promises” on the issue of school infrastructure.
-South Africa’s Literacy Crisis
Professor Mary Metcalfe, education expert, during her three-day lecture, “South Africa’s School Crisis”, at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) 2019 Summer School: “Lack of access to reading material and textbooks are two of the main reasons that 78% of South African children in grade 3 still can’t read for meaning.” And Professor Mary Metcalfe says fixing this national literacy crisis will take time and hard work. “Ultimately, children need resources – textbooks for learning and other books for reading pleasure.”
A cautionary note about electronics in the classroom: New research reveals the drawbacks of electronic devices for learning.
The Menzi Primary, a “smart school” in the Tshwane township of Langaville, has a heavy reliance on electronic devices, and encourages pupils to study through e-learning resources. It was robbed less than a week after opening. Panyaza Lesufi , the Education MEC for Gauteng “It is sad to say currently the Grade 7 learners do not have any textbooks as their e-books are gone with the tablets. These are educational facilities, aimed at enhancing the quality of education, and life of children in the township.”
Perhaps we should sort out the above issues first before concentrating on coding and data analytics at a primary school level.
5G, 4IR, Employment, Public Servants
On 9 April 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the membership of the new 30-person Presidential Commission on the 4IR, which he himself will chair.
Mention is made of the introduction of automation and AI which “can perform routine, repetitive, dangerous or just plain dull tasks far faster and more efficiently than humans can.”
Also mentioned: reskilling, retraining, redeployment, restructuring and yes, possible retrenchments and “reshaping the South African public service”
It is not surprising that the country’s previously disadvantaged population groups are more exposed to job losses due to automation than their white counterparts. Half of all black South Africa workers are in occupations with an 80% or greater probability of automation; so are 47% of coloured workers. For white employees, however, the proportion is only around 30%.
We will have to be very careful that although well intended ( the President’s dreams) that we do not marginalize those very people that need to be protected in our democracy.