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Legislation: Preparing for fourth industrial revolution

Publish date: 22 May 2019
Issue Number: 1782
Diary: Legalbrief Today

The development and enforcement of fourth industrial revolution ‘legislative, policy and regulatory instruments’ will be the responsibility of a Department of Communications dedicated to ensuring that ‘government in its entirety is … able to unlock value’ exceeding World Economic Forum projections. According to Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, a ‘value at stake framework’ prepared by fourth industrial revolution stakeholders in partnership with the World Economic Forum has estimated that, in SA, digital technologies could generate ‘more than R5trn’ – R2trn of which would stem from ‘digital transformation’ across government departments tasked with public infrastructure maintenance, public administration, healthcare, safety and security and social services. The Minister made these observations during yesterday’s induction of the presidential commission on the fourth industrial revolution, notes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch

Against that backdrop, her department is ‘making concerted efforts’ to better position government for taking ‘certain obligatory steps’ towards meeting ‘standards and principles’ apparently already beginning to emerge from a process Ndabeni-Abrahams referred to as ‘regulatory remodelling for a fourth industrial revolution economy’. In this regard, she spoke of ‘critical enablers’ that will include digital infrastructure, integrated digital technology, an ‘innovation society’, revised ‘transformation policies’ and ‘competition’. Advised by the commission, the department will ‘develop a strategy and framework for government’ enabling every organ of state to plan for integrating fourth industrial revolution technology into all aspects of its work. The sectors in which they function will be expected to ‘align accordingly’.

Gazetted last month, the commission’s terms of reference require it to identify the policies, strategies and plans necessary to ‘position’ SA as a leader in ‘the evolution and development of the fourth industrial revolution’. This is according to an accompanying Presidency media statement also noting the need for advice on ‘enhancing’ SA’s global competitiveness. In addition, the commission is expected to make recommendations on research and skills development, ways of ‘enabling relevant infrastructure’ and interventions to promote and support entrepreneurship in key fields of endeavour. The Minister delegated responsibility for R3trn of the R5trn ‘value at stake’ to ‘financial services, agriculture, manufacturing, consumer industries, metals and mining, utilities, oil and gas, telecommunications and (the) media’.

Follow Pam Saxby on Twitter (@SaxbyPam)