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The 4th Industrial Revolution: An Opportunity For South Africa To Define Its Relationship With Science And Innovation



Fourth Industrial Revolution – Image credit: cxo transform

At the beginning of the year, I stumbled upon a movie called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The movie which is based on a true story is an inspirational film which reflects the realities and the impact of poverty, climate change and poor governance amongst many other themes. However, the one theme that resonated with me most is education. The young boy fuelled by his love for science and technology and the desire to understand the subject, manages to solve a water crisis in his community by successfully building a large windmill that powers an electric water pump.

After watching this incredibly strong and practical representation of how Science and Technology can be used as a tool to solve problems faced by communities, I wondered, what if this 4th industrial revolution wave is an opportunity for South Africans to interrogate its relationship with science, after all, it is about new technology advancements. I wondered, what if this 4th industrial revolution is demanding that as South Africans we engage in open conversations about what science means to us as a collective?

Undoubtedly, the 4th industrial revolution is a very important aspect of an ever-changing science and technology landscape. However, just like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd revolution it will pass. Very soon if not already, the world will introduce the 5th industrial revolution –while we will still be grappling with the 4th. We therefore must be careful not to limit the science narrative in the country to just the 4th industrial revolution if the intention is to champion science and innovation that is fit for context. 

Instead, there needs to be a concerted effort by government to promote the development of indigenous innovations that respond to the rising inequality, poverty and unemployment faced by many underdeveloped communities. Therefore in my view, the 4th industrial revolution should be seen by South Africans as an era that demands a more intentional definition of how science and technology ought to be used to uplift communities.

With that in mind, I am reminded that, the revolution cannot be defined without those who live the day to day realities of the triple challenge. Historically, the science and technology conversation was reserved for industry and white old males. Years later, the face of this sector is changing and while science research relevant for industry is still very much at the helm, added emphasis is now being placed on doing research for social impact.

Therefore, with this element now on the table, the conversation is incomplete without two-way engagements with underdeveloped communities who are in dire need for innovative and scientific driven solutions.

So, we must be relentless in creating inclusive spaces of engagement around science and innovation. The risk that we run as a country, of limiting the conversation to captains of industry and government is that, the interpretation of science in the era of 4IR becomes one-dimensional.

However, when we expand the conversation to teachers, young scientists and engineers, professionals, students, unemployed persons, entrepreneurs and the pensioner, the conversation changes. Pertinent questions like how should science in the 4IR era be translating in our public school system? How is it translating in underdeveloped communities and what are the shortfalls?

And for an entrepreneur, the question is very much about, how does it enable me to create more jobs and products/services fit for my context?

It is in such moments, when we come together as a collective, that we become more intentional about how science and innovation will drive and achieve meaningful socio-economic development.  Further, it compels us to zoom into what does the face of socio-economic development look like for different sectors of society and more importantly, what problems science and innovation need to be solving in order to achieve this goal?

The inability for us to understand this on a much deeper level will have us shooting in the dark and adopting technologies and systems that are not fit for context and will only widen the gap.

So, before we make sweeping statements about bullet-trains and creating smart cities, we must get the fundamentals right. The unfortunate reality is, majority of public schools, especially in black communities, do not have science laboratories and equipment – a key component that gives a child the opportunity to “practicalise” science.

Innovation and incubation hubs should not just reside in the cities, when we know that as a country, we have an issue of accessibility due to the historical context of spatial planning. If driving socio-economic development through science and innovation is part of the countries agenda, we must invest in a skills retention strategy and building infrastructure for underdeveloped communities that will promote a culture of innovation and inspire an inclusive economy that responds to the triple challenges.

Also Read: How this African Diaspora is keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive

A meaningful revolution is not birthed by a passing wave, instead, it is founded on a strong foundation that has an appreciation for getting the fundamentals right. So in as much as the concept of the 4th industrial revolution sounds exciting, the vision has to be bigger than that.

The vision has to be driven by government and industry in collaboration with the young scientists and engineers, the entrepreneur, the student, the learner and the unemployed member of the community. When we do this as a collective, a shared meaning of how science and innovation translates into socio-economic development can be established.

I am convinced now more than ever, that no revolution for us, whether political or industrial, should be defined without us!

By Chumisa Ndlazi

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Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience



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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Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World



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



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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