The notion of a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) popularized by Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, defines a range of new technologies that fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human an element that formed an insightful discussion at the recent East Africa’s CIO100 Symposium.
Organised by CIO East Africa, the symposium themed: Growing the Digital Economy, purposed deliberate on how businesses can optimize on digitization and hasten growth and strength of an enterprise.
Panelists moderated by Vincent Ndonye, CEO Element Blue and UTU sought to demystify the opportunities and challenges arising as a result of massive advances in computing power, pervasive sensors, exploding volumes of data, and unprecedented connectivity.
Software, that is “eating with the world” as per Marc Andreesen, is mutating thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and innovations on trust with the blockchain. Virtual Reality, Robotics, 3-D printing, and Bio-engineering are erasing the barriers between the physical and biological realms, observed the panelists.
According to the panelists who generally were more optimistic about the promise of technology to enhance the human experience were assertive that AI and Robotics were lined to be game-changers in both social and works environment.
Nikki Summers, Regional Director – Sage East Africa underscored the rise of robots in the workplace and the clear distinction between work suited for humans and work better suited for robots.
Wale Olokodana gave the example of Microsoft’s work on amplifying human ingenuity and in particular applications for the 1 billion people in world living with disabilities.
Claude Schuck of Veam Software, explained how all these software innovations depend upon on fast and secure access to large volumes of data and so business must plan for not just ability to store large volumes of data but how this can be accessed securely and at the point and time of need.
Anna Collard, Managing Director, Popcorn Training a KnowBe4 Company cautioned on the perils from cybersecurity but pointed out on the weak link that still remains to be the human being. Efforts should include elevating employee understanding of the methods and vulnerabilities exploited by bad actors.
For years Science Fiction has captured the imagination of millions as people seek to understand where advancements in technology will lead them. Naturally, during the session and in questions afterwards, movies like “Terminator” and “Her” and TV shows like “Black Mirror” came up as the audience and panelists grappled with imagined futures.
Ultimately, the panelists discussed real-world and solutions currently available in East Africa that CIOs should consider as they march into the 4IR; conversational chatbots to enhance customer service, RPA-Robotic Process Automation to efficiently handle repetitive tasks, and machine learning credit scoring algorithms, to name a few.
Ndonye, the session moderator who is also the CEO at Element Blue and UTU Design noted that by combining technology with strategy and brand, people are squarely beginning to steadily appreciate the journey that promises to transform the continent’s future to bring products and services that are meaningful to users and expand channels of value creation for business.
Element Blue Africa steered by Ndonye is a software company and consultancy focused on IIOT and Digital Experiences and UTU Design Ltd is a human centred design and innovation company that designs products and services to elevate experiences.