Source: Editorial Comment: Let’s embrace high-tech for economic prosperity | The Herald October 21, 2019
The call by President Mnangagwa for the country to be abreast of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is noble, as it will ensure that Zimbabwe catches up with other nations in the developmental process. The President was speaking at Harare Institute of Technology’s 10th graduation ceremony on Friday.
President Mnangagwa’s emphasis on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which Zimbabwe must fully participate and benefit is insightful for the country to make progress.
In fact, the concept of development has been shaped by various aspects in the different epochs the world has travelled, especially with regards to the Industrial Revolution.
The concept of modernisation refers to developing countries travelling a certain path for them to be able to catch up in terms of industrialisation and other development aspects.
Technology has always been at the centre of this developmental trajectory, starting with the First Industrial Revolution.
The First Industrial Revolution defined the beginning of mechanisation in which industrialists used water and steam power to enhance their production.
After that, came the Second Industrial Revolution in which instead of relying on water and steam power, the industrialists used electric energy for mass production of goods, as the machines were now moving faster.
The Third Industrial Revolution involved the use of automation through electronics and information technology to enhance mass production.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which President Mnangagwa was talking about, is characterised by the blending of several technologies which come at a much faster speed than ever anticipated.
Some have insinuated that this industrial revolution has not been expected, as it has already shown its characteristics of disrupting the usual way of doing things by ushering in high-speed technologies that have changed the world view.
Numerous breakthroughs are being simultaneously made in technological advances, which no other epoch has achieved in the industrialisation process.
This means a drastic change in the systems of industrial production, a move which no country can afford to miss.
Emerging technologies in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing, energy storage, quantum computing and biotechnology are enhancing the new industrial revolution.
All these technologies are fast changing the way people live and how they conduct business, relate to each other and how they produce goods and services.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings huge developmental potential to developing countries, with those who can access the new technologies being able to acquire goods and services that enhance the quality of life.
It is envisaged through the Fourth Industrial Revolution the cost of doing business will drastically come down, while the ease of doing business will be more effective.
For instance, the advanced smartphone, which many people have in their pockets on a daily basis, has already changed the way of conducting business, as it brings all forms of communication on a single device.
People can buy and sell goods and services throughout the world using a single smartphone with so much speed.
That is why the call by President Mnangagwa on the Fourth Industrial Revolution should be heeded.
This is because the disruption to the way of doing business that is being brought by the Industrial Revolution calls for innovators who ensure the country remains in touch with the rest of the world.
Companies are fast-changing the way they conduct businesses because of the multiple technologies that characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Those who remain trapped in the traditional way of doing things will not be able to shape the future of their economies if they cannot embrace these new technological advancements.
We note that the President’s call was made at an appropriate platform, considering that the Harare Institute of Technology, by the nature of its name, should be the leading light in technological innovation.
Yet, the system has been slow in ensuring that the innovations at such institutions like HIT come to fruition.
There is need for these universities to come up with innovations that can be applied to, for example, the farming sector, where people in many areas still use rudimentary methods.
There are a lot of things that our universities can do to help the country advance in technology, including coming up with inventions that can be applied to the big industries.
The students have bright ideas and have already invented a number of technologies that can easily be further developed and applied to all sectors of the economy.
HIT has come up with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that is being used by many rural district councils in the country to aid the flow of their business and allow easy communication among departments.
The institution has also come up with the Tap and Go application that is being used by Zupco buses as a pre-payment system.
These and more technological inventions need to be done at a national scale to ensure their wide use by various sectors.
The rallying of the universities to catch up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution emanates from the desire by President Mnangagwa to ensure the country meets its targets on the modernisation and industrialisation of the economy.
This is where innovation hubs that are being set up at universities by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development should come in.
Students at these hubs should be the leading lights in innovation, and producing technologies relevant the country’s economic development.