The Impact and Opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution on Developing Nations: A Case Study in South Africa

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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One of the key concerns associated with the national development is the need for sustainable industrialization that incorporates the needs of a state. Countries have set plans that define their developmental agenda including the short-term and long-term goals with the targeted for the long-run outcome; however, the implementation processes have resulted to different implications. While it is essential to focus on planning, implementing the set strategies to mitigate economic deficiencies is equally an important task (Baweja et al., 2016). Different theorists have postulated different frameworks that define the operability and effect of economic undertakings across the globe. The use of case study analysis has also been essential in presenting new insights and dimensions regarding how the technical adjustments and economic revolutions have changed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Per Capita income.

Worth pointing out is that the global industrial revolution agenda has been one of the key concerns among developing nations. On the other hand, technology and innovation have been used as the hallmarks for structural changes Bloem et al., 2014). Although the global needs for economic rejuvenation and development have been adopted across different countries, some states have been keen to tailor the objectives and targets to their specific expectation. This paper examines the impact of the 4th industrial revolution in developing states from the perspective of South Africa. Therefore, the paper provides a comparative assessment of the economic performance over the recent years. In this excerpt, the key drivers of the industrial revolution have been revisited. Moreover, the paper provides a critical analysis of the National Development Plan in the country where the principal achievements and drawbacks have been presented to set the baseline for recommendations.

Overview of the Four Industrial Revolutions

The existence of humans has been marked with critical advancements in line with the need to mitigate the challenges of transition and existence. The need for a stable economy and the provision of the essential goods and services sparked the process of industry growth and development (Baweja et al., 2016). Therefore, the process of creation of value from resources has been associated with technological evolution and reinventions based on the current advancements and the need for change. Based on such a scenario, four critical stages of the industrial revolution have been linked to the global changes and economic trends across the globe.

The first industrial revolution can be traced back to 1765 as a period associated with proto-industrialization. The changes occurred between the 18th and the 19th centuries. The stage was the period that marked the onset of the mechanization of the process. The shift from the agricultural altered the overdependence on primary production to sustain economies (Bloem et al., 2014). The discovery of coal and the introduction of steam engines became critical indicators of the transformation of energy production. Such a move enhanced the creation of new alternatives transport and communication, which advanced trade practices and level of interaction (Bloem et al., 2014). On the other hand, the metal artistry saw the establishment of pioneer industries as well as the growth of cities through construction and assembling.

The advancements in the level of innovation and production paved the way to the second industrial revolution. At this stage, which climaxed in 1870, the change in the technology used led to new sources of energy such as the use of electricity, gas, and oil (Sentryo, 2016). The introduction of steel provided a new dimension to industrialization. One of the remarkable changes during this period was the creation of the combustion engines, which provided the new methods of changing resources into new products by maximizing output. The use and extraction of chemicals generated the possibilities of creating synthetic alternatives and fertilizer. The use of telegraph and telephone improved the timeliness and effectiveness of communication (Bloem et al., 2014). The beginning of the 20th century saw the reinvention of transport where airplanes were introduced. Worth pointing out is that the success of the second industrial revolution was founded on comprehensive research based on the new challenges that emanated from the increasing needs of the growing population. On the other hand, the accumulation of capital to attract the economies of the scale was also essential in igniting the achievements at this state.

The third revolution started during the second half of the 20th century. The metrics of change such as energy and production were also evident. The use of nuclear energy transformed the process of production. Transistor and processor provided the opportunity for the creation of diverse electronic devices; therefore, the communication efficiency increased when the computers were introduced (Sentryo, 2016). On the other hand, this level of industrialization was marked by the use of materials to provide miniaturized alternatives. Therefore, the onset of biotechnology can be traced to this era. The need for reduced risks and production errors led to the innovation of high-level automation such that the use of robots and automatons could be witnessed in advanced economies. With the use of computers, more work could be accomplished through science and other concepts to enhance production and efficient utilization of the scarce resources (Sentryo, 2016). Although significant changes were introduced at this level, new challenges were evident such as the complexity associated with adaptation of the technology used in industries and cost management. Therefore, focusing on a sophisticated approach to innovation and invention was essential. The end of the third revolution, therefore, paved the way for a more complex approach to modernization.

The current changes in the industry development framework, as well as the level of innovation and communication, is classified as the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). The period was marked by the emergence of the internet. Most of the processes have been digitalized to enhance safety, efficiency, and usability across parties. On the other hand, the focus on risk and cost management has been tailored to include the broader picture of economic stability and sustainability (Baweja et al., 2016). The decisions in the corporate sector and government include the critical areas of investment with the need to maximize the long-run results. At this level, the tendency to the virtual world seems inevitable since the trend has influenced the operations across the glove regardless of the level of economic resilience. Furthermore, technology has focused on critical areas such Big Data Analytics, Cloud Technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Th focus is set to the management of the undertaking in real-time irrespective of location, improved inventory management, efficient coordination through communication, reduced risks through decision-making assessment, and the setting of predictive maintenance models to reduce errors (Bloem et al., 2014). Moreover, shift to art cities, renewable sources of energy, and embracing societal changes in technology are part of the critical dimensions depicted in the fourth industrial revolution.

Key Drivers of the 4th Industrial Revolution: The Technology Perspective

The understanding of the fourth industrial revolution is founded on the notion of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Therefore, three major technological dimensions have been associated with the advanced stage of revolution (Li, Hou, and Wu, 2017). With the changes being witnessed across the globe, it is evident that the advancements can be categorized into digital, physical, or biological technologies. Such a move has provided the best platform for efficiency and further innovations with the perspective of long-term sustainability. Worth pointing out is that critical drivers have been essential in achieving the current global status as well as setting the baseline for complex inventions in future. While the focus has been on the connectivity, analytics, and intelligence, other dimensions such as the effect of linkages such as machine-to-machine and machine-to-human have been part of the current concerns for sustainable industrialization. The following are the key drivers associated with the new industrial revolution.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is considered as a new perspective of technology based on the changes that have occurred which link the automation and operations. The Internet of Things is an evolution that spans over 15 years where the objective of conservation of virtual and tangible resources is enhanced (Kearney, 2017). The blending of the sensors and the cloud as well as connectivity devices are part of the characteristics that define the Internet of Things. Through Information Handling Services (IHS) is expected to grow to 80 billion by 2025 because of the incorporation of IoT into the production and research undertakings. Moreover, the Internet of Things has become essential for the producers based on the technology dimensions that directly impact the smart enterprise control, asset management, and real-time interconnection (Baweja et al., 2016). Nevertheless, shortcomings such as cybersecurity and interoperability deficiencies have affected the ability of modernized firms to fully embrace the use of Internet of Things (Kearney, 2017; Li, Hou, and Wu, 2017). Therefore, the capacity of entities to attain the maximum advantages and potential associated with the use of IoT is subject to the adoption, adaptation, and management of the automated and operation-based technologies.

Artifical Intelligence

The introduction of the Internet of Things in business provided the best opportunity for the comprehensive analysis of the data from consumers, employees, operations, and other stakeholders (Baweja et al., 2016). Such a move called for the establishment of local connection of processes through machine involvement. The use of Artificial Intelligence became necessary where the producers are in a position to generate efficient command-based connectivity between the computer-based interface and th...

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