Intelligent CIO Africa Issue 21 - Page 44

CIO OPINION CIO opinion CIO OPINION “ THIS ABILITY TO BRIDGE THE DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL WORLDS WILL BE THE NEW GOLD FOR AFRICA. ////////////////// SAP Africa Managing Director Cathy Smith The future of work in a digital world The digital age and the new technologies it’s brought with it – Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – is seen by many as a threat to our way of life. However, SAP Africa Managing Director Cathy Smith says there is no need to panic. 44 INTELLIGENTCIO T he bad news is that the nature of work has already changed irrevocably. Everything that can be automated, will be. We already live in an age of ‘robot restaurants’, where you order on a touch screen, and machines cook and serve your food. Did you notice the difference? AmazonGo is providing shopping without checkout lines. In the US alone, there are an estimated 3.4 million drivers that could be replaced by self-driving vehicles in 10 years, including truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers. We’re not immune from this phenomenon in Africa. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation, compared to 44% in Ethiopia, 46% in Nigeria and 52% in Kenya. This doesn’t mean millions of jobs on the continent will be automated overnight, but it’s a clear indicator of the future direction we’re taking. The good news is that we don’t need to panic. What’s important for us in South Africa, and the continent, is to realise that there is plenty of work that only humans can do. This is particularly relevant to the African context, as the working-age population rises to 600 million in 2030 from 370 million in 2010. We have a groundswell of young people who need jobs – and the digital age can provide it, if we start working now. Make no mistake, there’s no doubt that this so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is going to disrupt many occupations. This is perfectly natural – every Industrial Revolution has made some jobs redundant. At the same time, these revolutions have created vast new opportunities that have taken us forward exponentially. Between 2012 and 2017, for example, it’s estimated that the demand for data analysts globally grew by 372%, and the