WINDHOEK, JAN 26 – The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has the potential to transform Namibia’s economy, increase its productivity and enhance its global trade.
With a growing number of business users and end consumers, the 4IR is starting to become a reality in Namibia. The information age allows people to hold massive information in hand at one time, which had never happened before.
Managing change in public services has prevailed on responsive ways of working and encouraging disruptive ideas in order to drive improvement and technology to reshape how core services are delivered. Advancements have reached the point where highly skilled jobs are as susceptible to replacement by automation as ones which do not require much education or training. This is a new area of interest in many government domains, ranging from defense and intelligence, to public safety, agriculture, environmental protection, and public transportation.
In order to create and shape technologies, government must be armed with the intelligence necessary to envision and enact bold policies. I expect new technologies, expectations, policies, stakeholders and even physical work spaces to all play into a new way of transforming the traditional public sector and these disruptive innovation accelerators could possibly have the most long-term potential to impact human culture overall. Previous technological revolutions occurred because governments undertook bold missions that focused, not on minimizing government failure but on maximizing innovation.
Although the public sector has historically led the way on adopting artificial intelligence (AI) in critical areas such as defense and national intelligence, these significant changes in new and advanced technology, take decisions without direct human input.
In introducing technology means that the work conditions are changed and the environment is modified, therefore existing policies, practices, and regulations may need to be updated or even created and revisiting current policies to make certain that they are still valid and appropriate for the new environment is critical.
In general, the relationships between individuals of any level of a company tend to suffer with the introduction of new technological methods. When technology is put into the hands of front-line government professionals, no single methodology will fit every company, but there is a set of practices, tools, and techniques that can be adapted to a variety of situations and this becomes quickly apparent how and where the technology fits into their specific work.
One of the most prominent hurdles in the digitization of public sector functions is how to take existing systems, which were not designed to cater for the volume of service delivery currently being experienced, and fairly quickly implement upgraded systems that can deliver services more efficiently. The public sector has little choice but to improve the way it operates online.
To do so, it needs to take their digital transformations deeper, beyond the provision of online services through e-government portals, into the broader business of government itself. That means looking for opportunities to improve productivity, collaboration, scale, process efficiency and innovation. The challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are the convergence of technology and creativity of people.
We need young population that is skilled, knowledgeable to use telecommunication and medical technology for the betterment of the people. Our networks for telecommunications should be robust enough to support the implementation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The world is significantly under-producing technological innovation that is needed to tackle global challenges, including boosting productivity, improving health, and protecting the environment.
The government need to invest in human capital by not only hiring the best, but also empowering our workforce, particularly, people with disabilities, women and those in local markets, to rise to senior leadership levels. Namibia needs leaders and managers who are abreast of developments and who understand what the Fourth Industrial Revolution means to workers and what opportunities it holds, as well as what will be needed in terms of skills knowledge and attitude to capitalize on it.
Most importantly, such leaders and managers must show the way, motivate and coach, inviting everybody along so that it’s a win-win situation. There is not much appetite or change in the public sector because of fear of getting things wrong, as the public sector comes under intense scrutiny if it messes up. It is therefore argued that technology touches every department and government function, arguably as well as every citizen’s desire and demand for improved customer service, complemented with budget pressures to deliver more services with less funding.
Effective democratic governance requires that citizens be able to identify and hold accountable those who make decisions that produce undesired outcomes. Namibia just like all other nations should expect key disruptions on employment levels, skills sets and recruitment patterns.
In conclusion, the primary benefit of technology is efficiency. Namibia’s leaders need to urgently start a conversation around the moral and ethical issues raised by the current technological advances. The world of computers and information technology has become so important that it’s highly doubtful that there will be a return to traditional methods of conducting business. The accelerated technological change is going to require a change of culture, of social and labor adaptation. It will bring with it many opportunities for public and private sector that are prepared for these changes, and can be a worrying situation for those that are not. – Josef Kefas Sheehama