New initiative to set SA on path to become digital nation

Independent management consulting firm IQbusiness and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) have announced the launch of SAtion (Digital SA Nation), an initiative to move the country forward into economic recovery and digital growth.

BUSA is a non-profit company representing cross-cutting organised business interests in SA. The organisation was formed in October 2003 and began operating in January 2004, creating the first representative and unified organisation for business in SA.

In a statement, IQbusiness and BUSA say SAtion will see stakeholders in the private and public sectors – including government, large corporations, SMMEs, industrialists, private investors, thought leaders and educational institutions – convening to discuss, co-ordinate and implement fourth industrial revolution (4IR) projects.

The initiative comes as the South African government is touting the use of 4IR technologies to boost the country’s economic fortunes.

Building a 4IR army

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams recently championed innovation and the 4IR to bring South Africa out of its economic and unemployment slump.

This after Stats SA data on the latest unemployment figures shows the country’s official unemployment rate is 32.6%.

The rate among young people (15-34 years) is 46.3%, which, according to Stats SA, implies almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2021.

In addition, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s assessment of SA’s economic prospects show the country’s economy is only expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2025.

As the communications and digital technologies minister, Ndabeni-Abrahams has pushed forward the notion of building a “4IR-capable army” that will be able to seize the economic opportunities brought on by the 4IR and digital society.

As a result, her ministry has set itself a target of training one million unemployed youth in data science and related skills, to empower them to fill jobs of the future.

According to BUSA and IQbusiness, the growth envisaged by SAtion is enabled by technology, including artificial intelligence, data science, cyber security solutions, rapid payments systems, online state-citizen interfaces and advanced hardware infrastructure.

They note the implementation of these efficiency-enhancing tools will be underpinned by upskilling initiatives in formal education and will include assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of new technologies.

Digital equaliser

The organisations believe this approach to co-ordinated, broad-scale digital growth is not only the best way to accelerate the growth SA desperately needs, but to ensure this growth is inclusive and sustainable into the future in a rapidly advancing – and ever more unequal – world.

“The transition to a digitalised economy is a critical element of the Economic Recovery Strategy document developed by BUSA through the B4SA platform. We consider SAtion to be the instrument and tool that is the beginning of this journey. SAtion will enable us to ensure a digitalised economy contributes to inclusive growth and the development of our people,” says Cas Coovadia, BUSA CEO.

B4SA is an alliance of South African volunteers working with the South African government, and other social partners, as well as various stakeholders to mobilise business resources and capacity to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our vision for South Africa to become a digital nation stems from the knowledge and awareness of the benefits that come with digital transformation. While times may seem tough now for our country and our citizens, there is an LED at the end of the tunnel,” says Adam Craker, CEO of IQbusiness.

Leader of the SAtion ecosystem, Dimakatso Matshoga, says: “Like any of the three prior industrial revolutions, SAtion intends to bring about vital change and socio-economic upliftment.

“SAtion will help ensure the 4IR pragmatically supports black industrialists and entrepreneurs. In this way, it will enable economic transformation through bridging the current digital divide.”

BUSA and IQbusiness point out that at this time when South Africans are deeply concerned about whether things are going to get better, or whether the country is going to be left behind in the global recovery process, the need to transform SA into a prosperous and fully-fledged digital nation is pressing.

“BUSA and IQbusiness remain committed to answering this call and are confident that the SAtion initiative will play a crucial role in the creation of a prosperous and digital economy in South Africa,” they conclude.

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