Posted: April 14, 2023
The Leadership of University of Zululand.
The Sifiso EdTech.
The Leadership of uMhlathuze Municipality.
The representatives of the Department of Education.
The representatives of the beneficiary schools.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It always brings me joy and excitement all the time when I get an invitation by companies to come into an occasion where they are dedicating their corporate social investment into developing value into the society. Businesses operate within society and have a patriotic duty not to turn a blind eye into a need, especially a developmental need that has futuristic outcomes to our country.
Big corporates such as SASOL have been trailing the blaze in many areas by showing us that the private sector can shoulder where government may not have an extended hand, to address the shortfall. This is what we call patriotic capital.
Today SASOL Foundation, in partnership with Sifiso Edtech, is having over the robotics laboratory aimed at supporting schools on Science Education infrastructure. In one word, I am here today to thank SASOL Foundation in financing this important initiative that will immensely contribute to the future of our children, from point of view of science and innovation.
I have been informed that these mobile laboratories are going to be used primarily for the prescribed experiments and to promote science activities such as robotics, space science and to host science career guidance exhibitions. For a learner in school, getting exposed to these life opportunities lying ahead can have a lasting influence in your perspective, including choosing career choice in the science and innovation ecosystem. This is what Japanese have been doing for ages. It is by no mistake that Japan and much of South Korea and Germany, produces scientists and engineers more than they produce philosophy and social science graduates. For these Asian and European societies, it starts from school level to influence children with science and innovation.
The accelerated digital revolution is making it essential for students and teachers to acquire skills that are necessary for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The pace with which 4IR is disrupting all aspects of our lives, from science, agriculture, industrial production, education, services sector, construction, to mining and retail, the resounding message is clear to all of us: No one must be left behind, rich or poor.
Yesterday I was part of the President’s South Africa’s Investment Summit in Sandton. The key message that resonated throughout from blue chip companies was that Africa is far behind compared to other continents on connectivity and digital inclusion. About 800 million people in Africa, out of 1.4 billion have no internet connectivity because of living in squalor. Therefore the 4th industrial revolution we are talking about as sweeping everything we do today, is bypassing them. These numbers includes us in South Africa especially our rural communities and some in the townships. What do we do?
Issues of science and innovation are at the heart of this digital economy. Automation, internet of things, quantum leaping, artificial intelligence such as robotics and many other aspects of the 4th industrial revolution whereby algorithms have taken over, must be widely accessed. We must never allow it that it becomes a resource for only those who are rich and middle class, but everyone. This is where companies like SASOL and many others must avail resources like this Lab to bridge the digital divide and crowd in poor communities especially, the youth as our future.
As a country we are at 5G connectivity level in terms of internet speed and capacity. Working with Google we concluded the journey in September last year when the subsea internet cable reached our shores under the sea from Portugal through west Coast of Africa route. This 12 fibre pair cable brings faster internet speed for SA whilst reducing internet price costs when it comes to online browsing and other work. Its full impact will be felt in 2024. These are some of the measures that we are ensuring that South Africa operates at the same levels as any other Western country on 4IR.
In this regard, I want to congratulate learners and teachers within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for this facility and wish them all the luck to succeed. I am fully aware that teachers too, still have to learn these technologies so that they can pass the knoldge down to learners. Good luck with that!
Once again thank you very much SASOL and Sifiso EduTech. Thanks to the University as well.