SALDRU’s communications manager, Fazila Farouk, attended the launch of the South African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators Report 2017 at Philippi Village on 20 July 2018. The launch, co-hosted by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), included a panel discussion that examined how to incorporate “digital disruption and transformative change in the science technology and innovation (STI) measurement agenda”.
The theme for the discussion was Disruptive digitisation, transformative change and inclusion: How do we design a responsive measurement agenda in South Africa. The discussion was framed within the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). An important point that emerged is that the definition of 4IR is not fixed. It is context specific.
Panellists, including Garth Williams from the Technology Innovation Agency, Jodi Allemeier from the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, Dr. Michael Gastrow from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Dr. Albert Strever from the Agro-Innovation Hub, argued for the need to develop a definition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution within a South African context in a manner that gives priority to our “transformation and inclusion imperatives”.
There was agreement by the panel that there is no fixed definition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR, as it is abbreviated to. Williams argued, 4IR “is not a thing, it is heuristic”.
Similarly, Gastrow said that there’s a need to establish conceptual distinctions, arguing further that 4IR represents a schematic associated with the power of accelerating technological change. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a complex of multiple technologies playing out in many sectors and many social formations. Some promote inclusion while others don’t, he said.
Williams turned to sustainable development indicators to frame the 4IR, arguing that they point to a transformative innovation policy. Given planetary constraints, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the circular economy are no longer optional. In this framing, not all innovation is seen as good. Choices need to be made around desirable innovation, he said.