The government must make a deliberate effort to not only upgrade infrastructure in terms of waterways, motorways, technology, but also skills. It will be of no use, if we have good infrastructure but a shortage of skills.
The millions of jobs that we need will only be achieved if we equip our young people with the right skills to make them competitive.
A lot of our unemployment issues in this sector and many others stem from a lack of skills. If you don’t have the knowledge and skills, you don’t even realise that there are opportunities. The government is putting in good work as far as expansion and upgrades are concerned. If we fix the knowledge and skill gap issues, our ports will be as competitive as those in Dubai, Singapore, and Antwerp. If we keep up the good work, this can happen in a decade.
I would talk up the need for digitisation of processes. There is a need for the creation of a digital economy to help eradicate corruption, reduce unemployment, increase revenues and improve efficiency. It should not be a big leap to make because we have already digitised the ports and court systems.
A digitised system would help the government function better because tax, ID, and registration systems will be improved. Having a robust digital ecosystem will also help us improve our traffic systems because it will reduce human interference and incidences of road carnage. I believe that the adoption of technology will reduce the gap between developing countries and those that are highly industrialised.
When we speak internally and also with other universities, we understand that data revolution is a big topic. Universities are, therefore, coming to the realisation that we must keep up with the world. We have to stay updated and train students for the jobs of the future or else lose our credibility. The questions we were asking ourselves before Covid-19 were; what will future jobs look like? Will we be teaching the same way? How will data science influence the future? With the onset of the pandemic, universities have been jerked forward in a way that has made them move forward with their plans faster than scheduled. We have to focus our strategies so that ICT, data science and open innovation become central moving forward.
One of my legacies as the vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg has been to bring issues of technology to the forefront. We push technology forward through conversations as the leading voice for the fourth industrial revolution in South Africa. We were instrumental in the South African government’s decision to pursue matters of the fourth industrial revolution. Our efforts have been fruitful because our president is now the chairman of the fourth industrial revolution commission, where I serve as his deputy. The courses we offer at the university are well aligned with our agenda.