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East Africa Com
25 - 26 April 2023
Radisson Blu Upper Hill HotelNairobi

25 - 26 April 2023
Radisson Blu Upper Hill Hotel,


Evelyn Ngatia, Founder and CEO at Techawatt, shares how to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What does the 4IR really mean for East Africans?

The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) will impact every individual, organization, and economy in a significant way. We have to position ourselves to take advantage of the technologies that come with the 4IR. By educating yourself and developing a 4IR strategy, you will thrive in the 4IR.


It is important to first understand the meaning of 4IR. We can then look at how to position ourselves to take advantage of it.

What is the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)? 

4IR refers to the technologies that synchronize the physical and digital worlds. For example, an autonomous car is a physical persona and it forms its digital persona in two ways. It connects to the internet and interconnects to other devices. We refer to this connectivity and interconnectivity as the Internet of Things (IoT). It is a key 4IR technology.

IoT connects humans to the internet and interconnects them with devices and software. There are emerging technologies that will enable the Human Internet of Things (HIoT). They include gene sequencing, gene editing, synthetic biology, neurotechnology, and human chips.

Other 4IR technologies include artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and gene editing. They contribute towards the synchronization of the physical and digital worlds.

4IR follows after the first, second and third industrial revolutions. Their respective characteristics are mechanical power, electrical power and digital power.

The Merriam - Webster dictionary says a revolution is a sudden, radical or complete change. The 4IR will impact every individual, organization, and economy in a significant way.

Educating and Strategizing for the 4IR 

4IR literacy is the first major step to thriving in this 4IR. Literacy means knowing 4IR and its key technologies. It includes knowing the impact of 4IR on your organization, industry, or economy. It involves reading books and articles, watching videos, and taking e-learning courses.

Knowing the 4IR technologies can overwhelm you, and it may not be possible to be an expert in all the emerging ones. This makes it important to differentiate between strategic and technical 4IR skills.

Strategic vs. Technical 4IR Skills. What is the difference? 

Strategic 4IR Skills give us a high-level understanding of 4IR. They include emerging technologies and their application in the economy. This will allow you to make an informed decision on which technologies to pursue in-depth. We refer to the in-depth skills as the Technical 4IR Skills. For example, an IT specialist may pursue in-depth data science skills to help with a new product. A business development manager may want to learn about 4IR but not desire to be an expert in data science. The manager can choose to only learn strategic 4IR skills.

4IR strategy is the second major step to thriving in this 4IR. It involves setting your 4IR goals and priorities. You can then develop a specific course of action to achieve them. You could also redesign your strategy to include a 4IR strategy, goals and priorities.

The 3-Lens Approach to Positioning Yourself for the 4IR 

We can look at 4IR literacy and strategy from 3 different lenses. These are the individual, organization and country/government.

(i) The Individual Lens

As an individual, 4IR literacy means educating yourself. Many online resources will help you learn about 4IR. Search for online courses, videos, articles or books on 4IR. If your children are not getting 4IR skills in their school, they can get them in online on-demand courses.

4IR Strategy for the individual means setting new 4IR goals and priorities. Understand where you are at the moment – are you employed or self-employed? Which industry do you work in? How will it change in the 4IR? Do you see yourself in this industry or job or is a career shift more suitable for you? A coach will help you put this into perspective. Engage a life, career or 4IR coach who will help you understand your life purpose and how it will play out in the 4IR.

(ii) The Organization Lens

As an organization, 4IR literacy means educating your staff and board of directors on 4IR. Organizations need to be strategic about their upskilling. Don’t overwhelm your staff by making them learn all the technical 4IR skills. They can decide which ones to learn based on their area of specialization.

4IR strategy means understanding the sector in which your organization operates. It includes knowing how 4IR will impact this sector. 4IR strategy involves redesigning your strategy to align it to the 4IR. For example, the media industry is moving towards platform technologies. This means having content (articles, videos, podcasts, etc.) on a single platform. The platform may be subscription-based. A traditional media house needs to embrace this future in its strategy. It can either develop the platform alone or via partnership. 

(iii) The Country / Government Lens

As a country, 4IR literacy means governments upskilling their staff. It also means redesigning the education system for schools, universities, and colleges. The goal is to align the system to 4IR and equip students with both strategic and technical 4IR skills. This equips students to either enter the job market or venture into entrepreneurship. This is what Education 4.0 entails and needs to be at the centre of any government for its economy to thrive in this 4IR.

4IR Strategy will mean redesigning your country’s strategy to incorporate 4IR. South Africa is a good case study on how to position a country for the 4IR. In 2019, the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, put together a 4IR commission. It is the Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution. The commission members came from various sectors of the economy. These included academia, corporate, digital start-ups, among others. The commission was to come up with the overarching 4IR strategy for the country. It is to recommend how to position South Africa as a globally competitive economy. In 2020, the commission presented its report with eight key recommendations. These included:

  • Establish an Artificial Intelligence Institute
  • Secure and avail data for innovation
  • Incentivize industries of the future
  • Build 4IR infrastructure
  • Invest in human capital through redesigning the education system and reskilling the workforce
  • Establish a platform for advanced manufacturing and new materials
  • Review policy & legislation
  • Establish a 4IR Strategy Implementation Coordination Council

The country is now on its way to implementing the recommendations of the commission.

Register for the virtual East Africa Com to hear more on the subject.

Learn more about Strategic 4IR Skills at 4IR Academy.