Digital Energy Festival ponders 5IR, purpose and social impact in Africa
Africa will have to facilitate its own growth and development in order to fulfil its potential and create prosperity for her children. This is according to Simon Gosling, MD of Energynet.
Gosling was speaking at a masterclass entitled: “ The 5IR, Energy, and Humanity,” that took place on the 20th October at the Digital Energy Festival. The masterclass was a precursor of the Digital African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa, which kicked off today and will end on the 26 October.
Gosling began by challenging the view of the 5th Industrial Revolution as an actual revolution. It's not a revolution, it's an evolution because we are taking all these amazing technological achievements from the 4th Industrial Revolution and layering the impact on welfare and socio economic development, he said.
“The 5th Industrial Revolution looks at what the 4th Industrial Revolution has achieved, celebrates it, and has started to layer in how those technologies are going to enable people to find their own education and their own path forward, and really kinda layer in human capital development and purpose,” he said.
Gosling outlined the potential of African continent - it's vast, it's the fastest growing population in the world and it's got the most arable land. “So really, Africa is going to be at the heart of global prosperity and peace for the foreseeable future,” he said.
He emphasised that if Africa wants to create growth and development with a resulting jobs and prosperity for its people, then the continent has ask: “where are these jobs going to come from?”
Gosling cited the The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as an example of how Africa can drive its own development. He was a young man in Africa who wanted his community to have access to electricity. “So, he found a way to build a wind turbine which created electricity for his community, which then created jobs. Now that community has created a whole movement where they were doing it for themselves,” Gosling said.
He compared the development driver behind The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with the 4th Industrial Revolution in industrialised countries. “What the 4th Industrial Revolution has done is that it has taken these massive machines, which are hugely expensive and would take up acres and acres of space and are heavy and impossible to build, and they condensed them into an iPad or a phone,” he said
It's a fact that industrialised countries' development consists of an iPad, education and access to electricity, he said. Now these are things where we can play a really simple role getting across the continent and getting it to people, he said. However, access to power is crucial to technological development or even implementing technology in Africa, and that requires education and the development of human capital. Without electricity, things like broadband and WiFi are not even possible, he said.
Why the 5th Industrial Revolution matters
Pratik Gauri, the India President of Fifth Element Group, spoke about why Africa, and other developing regions, need to transcend to the 5th Industrial Revolution.
While 4th Industrial Revolution has brought us many wonderful technological marvels such as AI, the Internet of Things, blockchain, 3D printing and many more, it has not happened without a cost, he said. There were also some unintended consequences of technology that are being caused by 4th Industrial Revolution, he said.
Gauri noted that despite technological developments the world, there are still social inequalities, where some people still don't have access to clean water, sanitation or electricity, and some countries like India are still big emitters of CO2, polluting the environment. This is why it is important that we bend the focus of technology towards the benefit of humanity, he said.
He gave a short presentation on his view of what the 5th Industrial Revolution is to him, noting that there were two worlds in the 4th industrial revolution, which operated in silos. the first world centred around profits and progress, he said. This world was the private sector. The second world centred around purpose and inclusivity. This world was about philanthropy and the “not-for-profit” world.
“However, there is now a new form of energy which is being created ,which is all about humanity. I believe that the 5th Industrial Revolution happens when we work at the intersection of technology and purpose. If we can bend all the benefits that have been produced by the 4th Industrial Revolution towards humanity, that would be the 5th Industrial Revolution,” Gauri said.
Technology and social impact
Gauri said that the way we can transcend from the 4th industrial revolution to the 5th industrial revolution is by following these four tenets: operating business as a force for good, increasing the prominence of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, empowering girls and women, and moving from traditional energy to alternative sources of energy.
Panel chairman Tony Tiyio, the founder and CEO of Renewable Africa questioned Gauri on the viability of hanging the 5th Industrial Revolution on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, considering the fact that the UN Sustainable Development Goals were underfunded and have an almost 65% deficit in funding.
Gauri acknowledged that there is a big shortfall in funding for the goals, which are supposed to be met by 2030. However, reminded delegates that the 5th Industrial Revolution is not being launched from scratch. As Gosling noted, we have harnessed the benefits from the 4th Industrial revolution and the 5th Industrial Revolution is actually an evolution, Gauri said.
“We need the 5th Industrial Revolution to flower and we need everyone to contribute. The time is now,” he said.