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May the 4th Industrial Revolution Leave No Child Behind

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Chumisa Ndlazi

Last month I had the pleasure of attending SciFest Africa Festival which is now on its 23rd year running. The event which is an initiative of the Grahamstown foundation is aimed at promoting the public awareness, understanding and appreciation for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Learners from all around Eastern Cape, private and public schools ranging from grade 4 – 12 attended the festival all in the quest to learn something new and exciting about what the world of STI has to offer.

As one of the exhibitors showcasing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR’s) 3D printing capability – which forms part of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), I had the opportunity to engage with some of the learners and educators. While engaging with the learners, I noticed that there’s a difference between learners who were in the private school system, former model c and the township or rural public school system and I wondered, during these exciting times of 4IR, who would get the short end of the stick?

When showcasing our technologies to a young audience, we use an interactive approach by running quiz competitions, games and as part of the SciFest programme, we sometimes host workshops too. However, this year, we focused more on quiz competitions and this is where I began to observe the differences. The private school learners who came to our exhibition stand, could recognise 3D printed objects from afar. Quite often, we would be met with enthusiastic comments like: “This is 3D printing right? My dad has one too but it prints plastic objects” or “This is so cool, we learnt about 3D printing in class and we also went on a field trip.” When it came to asking questions, they answered with confidence and those who were not sure, were not afraid to ask questions. They were simply excited to learn more and throughout, they engaged with confidence whether they answered correctly or not.

The former model c school learners who visited our exhibition stand knew of the 3D printing concept. They understood its application in the health and housing sector and so they also answered the questions with confidence  but, they had never seen or touched a 3D printer, they simply had a good theoretical understanding of it whereas, private school learners had been exposed to both. Learners from township and rural schools on the one hand said that they have never heard of 3D printing or seen a 3D printer. So, we had to introduce the concept by making reference to everyday examples such as the process of how a normal printer would work – which they understood very well, especially when the concept was explained in isiXhosa.

I also noticed that when the concept of 3D printing and 4IR was being explained in English, they eyes wondered and we somehow lost their interest but, when we switched to isiXhosa and we aligned these concepts to everyday things which they have seen or experienced, they were more willing to express themselves freely and ask questions.

Another observation I made throughout the year last year, was that most of the school tour visits I received largely came from private or former model c schools in the Gauteng region. Rarely did I receive requests from township and/or rural schools. It then dawned on me that for schools where affordability, access to facilities and the internet is not an issue, class work and fieldwork learning is being integrated as part of everyday learning.

However, for learners who struggle to access the internet, don’t have a family member that owns a technology piece like a 3D printer and cannot afford to travel to facilities like the CSIR to learn about cool technologies that contribute towards 4IR, they are ultimately left behind. Over and above the lack of exposure, the one subject that most people perceive to be intimidating is being communicated in a language that is not their own using concepts they have never heard of or seen before.

Also Read Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

A report on Education in South African Rural Communities done by the Nelson Mandela Foundation states that out of South Africa’s 11.4 million learners, 2.6 million are in KwaZulu-Natal, 2.0 million are in the Eastern Cape and 1.7 million are in Limpopo. The remaining provinces have far smaller learner populations. Levels of adult illiteracy and youth unemployment are also highest in these three provinces. Further, according to a study published by Brand South Africa, the quality of education for most black children is poor. In poorer communities, schools are still substandard, access to electricity and sanitation is still a problem. Textbooks are not delivered and teachers are not motivated and well-supported.

Additionally, poor communities cannot support their schools and school governing bodies to the same extent as wealthier communities. In this report, it is also noted that while socioeconomic conditions of learners constrain learning achievement, it is clear that in South Africa, unequal schooling also aggravates socioeconomic disadvantage, rather than mitigate it.

This realisation left me feeling concerned because when I connected the dots post-observation, I wondered who would then be in a better position to take full advantage of 4IR? Would it not be the child that has access to information and the financial resources to experience education outside of the classroom?In part 2, I’ll explore possible solutions to establishing a relatable and accessible approach to communicating 4IR.

 

Author: Chumisa Ndlazi (Communications Professional)

Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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