The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the current “It” vibe and as we explore this growing phenomenon and its impact on young people at large, we first provide a brief history of its forerunners. The First Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second Revolution optimised electric power to create mass production. The Third Revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production. Simply put, developments in industrial production started seeing more automation with ever- decreasing human involvement in production.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already a growing presence in every fibre of our lives. Statements alluding to it “disrupting almost every industry in every country” are said in almost reverential tones. The possibilities this Revolution provides are endless with access to knowledge, unprecedented technological breakthroughs and the emergence of an era of connection unlike ever seen or experienced before. This poses a question, how do we adequately prepare our young people for it? Young people are encouraged to be aware of the opportunities this potentially brings to improve the quality of life through new avenues to increase income. As the wave builds, new markets are emerging. In light of the revival of the African Renaissance, youth are urged to consider and explore socio-economic inclusion and cohesion opportunities on the African Continent. Networking, keeping informed of developments and linking to education and empowerment agendas and organisations is key to capitalising on potential benefits of this Revolution. Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile wallet revolution is a prime example. Since the launch in 2007, it has already expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India, Romania and Albania. The prevailing demographics of these countries reflect the transformative power of growing digital infrastructure, economic growth and communication developments. Young people are being equipped with knowledge, resources and digital linkages to explore creative economies and technical trade on many different platforms.
It is important to note that with opportunities, there will be challenges as well. Among these is the impact of the Revolution on the labour market and the possibility that lower education and increased digitisation will create further gaps while it is argued that labour reforms, as a result of technology, may result in “safe and rewarding jobs”.
While we take in the dynamics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the obvious speed of its development is both daunting and overwhelming yet eerily…exhilarating. Will we drown or will we ride this wave? Resolving with determination to identify and maximise the opportunities it will surely provide for a youth whose thinking, skills and vision are perhaps made for such a time as this.