Tomorrow’s technology in SA: watch UJ’s Cloudebates online

Fit for the future

To date, UJ has hosted three Cloudebates and will continue with more into 2019. Everyone is invited to the Cloudebates because everyone is affected. The topics covered since September are “Man vs Machine”, “Is 4.0 the Demise of Childhood” and most recently “Digitally Equal?”

“The way tomorrow works” is the guiding light for UJ Cloudebate themes. How would tomorrow work if man were eventually pitted against machine? Is this even a possibility? The first debate included panellists Prof Babu Paul, head of UJ’s Institute for Intelligent Systems, and Toby Shapshak from Stuff Magazine.

They, along with the other esteemed panellists, toyed with the somewhat disturbing idea that man may come up against machine. Could the dystopian futures portrayed in so many Hollywood movies ever become a reality? Would man essentially become redundant in the world of work? How would man find purpose in a world where machines tended to our every need?

The question that followed the themes from the first UJ Cloudebate was: “How do we ensure that our children are fit for this relatively unknown future while at the same time grounded by the traditional principles of the past? And, does that even matter in this new world?”

Generational theorist Graham Codrington; UJ’s early childhood development specialist Prof Elizabeth Henning; and – once again in the role of facilitator – Prof Ylva Rodney-Gumede explored the balancing act parents and teachers will have to juggle. There seemed to be general consensus on the old adage of leading by example, by paying attention to how much media you consume, with regards to guiding your children – but the dominant theme of the education system in SA’s readiness for 4.0 became a highlight.

These Cloudebates could not have taken place or may not have reached certain people interested in the topics because of “Data accessibility in an emerging economy” – the subject of the third Cloudebate. It is evident that the new technological world driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution depends on access to data.

The implications for SA could be crippling, especially for an economy that could use this small window of opportunity to leap forward. Accessibility could close the divide within this already disparate society where the poor get poorer and the wealthy make more money because they have the tools to do so. Panellists confronted the different angles posed by this contentious topic from a legal, human rights and an operational and technological viewpoint.

Dr Doorsamy, senior lecturer in the faculty of engineering and the built environment, represented UJ and, among other industry experts, Dudu Mkhwanazi, a digital inclusion advocate and CEO of Project Isizwe, represented civil society. Mkhwanazi’s standpoint is that public-private partnerships are the cornerstone of broadening access.

Log onto www.uj.ac.za/4IR to view past Cloudebates and to sign up for future discussions.

This article was paid for by the University of Johannesburg.

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