The South African Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics and Smart Cities

As IoT technologies continue to spread to all aspects of day-to-day life, questions about data ownership, accuracy and privacy protection take on greater importance.  There are more connected devices in the world today than humans. By 2025, they are projected to exceed 40 billion. As internet of things (IoT) technologies continue to spread across all aspects of day-to-day life, and even become embedded in the human body, questions regarding data ownership, cybersecurity, accuracy and privacy protection take on newfound urgency and importance. Similarly, in an interconnected world where electric grids, public infrastructure, vehicles, homes and workplaces are capable of being accessed and controlled remotely, the vulnerability to cyber-attacks and the potential for these security breaches to cause serious harm are unprecedented.

Global Network projects include: Creating Market Incentives for Secure Industrial IoT; Accelerating the Impact of IoT Technologies; Forging a New Social Contract for Smart Cities; Unlocking the Shared Value of IoT Data; Building Trust in Consumer IoT; Enabling an Inclusive Roll-Out of 5G and Next Generation Connectivity

Projects being explored at C4IR-SA include Smart Cities, IoT in Mining and IoT for Advanced Manufacturing

Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology

Blockchain, an early-stage technology that enables the decentralized and secure storage and transfer of information, has the potential to be a powerful tool for tracking and transactions that can minimize friction, reduce corruption, increase trust and empower users. Cryptocurrencies built on distributed ledger technologies (DLT) have emerged as potential gateways to new wealth creation and disrupters across financial markets. Other revolutionary use cases are being explored in almost every sector, ranging from energy to shipping to media. By taking a systemic and inclusive approach to this technology, it is possible to ensure that everyone—from the most marginalized members of society to the most powerful— benefits from its transformative potential.

Global Network projects include: Interoperability, integrity, and inclusion: Blockchain for supply chains; Central banks in the age of Blockchain; unlocking transparency; re-imagining data ownership and economic models in the token economy; digital identity and certification

Projects being explored at C4IR-SA include Digital Identity, Smart Contracts and Certification, Supply Chain Verification and Unlocking Transparency (Government and Industry)

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

 Artificial intelligence (AI) is the software engine that drives the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Its impact can already be seen in homes, businesses and political processes. It holds the promise of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society, but also presents challenges such as inscrutable “black box” algorithms, unethical use of data and potential job displacement. As rapid advances in machine learning (ML) increase the scope and scale of AI’s deployment across all aspects of daily life, and as the technology itself can learn and change on its own, multi-stakeholder collaboration is required to optimize accountability, transparency, privacy and impartiality to create trust. The Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) portfolio aims to support the development of policy frameworks and governance protocols to accelerate the societal benefits and mitigate the risks of AI and ML. Projects could include: Empowering AI leadership; unlocking public-sector AI; generation AI: standards for protecting children; re-imagining the regulator; data marketplace for AI; teaching responsible AI; and the ethics switch.

Projects being explored at C4IR-SA include Empowering AI Leadership, Teaching Responsible AI and RE-imaging the Regulator

Autonomous and Urban Mobility

Autonomous vehicles (AV) have the potential to improve road safety, decrease pollution levels, reduce congestion and transform the design of cities. With the proper parameters in place, AVs can be safer, more efficient and more economical than vehicles today. However, transitioning to autonomous vehicles involves a disruptive shift that is bound to reshape public and private transportation systems, leaving many players behind if they fail to keep pace
with emerging technologies. Collaboration among business and government leaders is needed to jointly identify the best strategies for accelerating the adoption of autonomous mobility in a safe, clean and inclusive manner.

Drones have the potential to transform business models and tackle societal challenges around the globe, governments are struggling to find ways to encourage innovation while maintaining public safety and confidence. Large companies, as well as a growing start-up ecosystem, are hindered in their ability to invest and expand. Enabling millions of manned and unmanned aircraft to fly concurrently will also require new types of airspace management, physical infrastructure, and privacy and data ownership policies. Laying the right policy foundation and platforms for industry cooperation today, both through smart government regulation and industry-driven standards, will accelerate the adoption of new use cases and business models once the enabling technology and infrastructure are mature.

Global network project areas include: Data for AV Safety, Global New Mobility Coalition; Preparing for AVs; Activating Seamless Integrated Mobility; Rural Mobility;
 New Paradigms for Drone Regulation; Medicine from the Sky; Urban Aerial Mobility Challenge.

Possible projects will focus on areas including safety regulations, societal benefits, equality and access, infrastructure readiness, shaping urban mobility choices and data governance and security

Data Policy

As data is increasingly generated and collected globally, businesses require clearer and more practical data policies, while policy-makers need better tools to develop future-oriented and agile frameworks for data regulation that will allow for innovation but protect individual privacy.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already had a profound impact on global trade, economic growth and social progress. The ability of data to move across borders underpins new business models, boosting global GDP by 10% in the last decade alone. However, digital trade barriers including outdated regulations, fragmented governance and strict data localization policies could potentially hamper these gains. At the same time, policy-makers must balance societal concerns in the digital commercial space while stakeholders need to navigate divergent national responses.

Fourth Industrial Revolution technological advances – such as increased computational capacity, sophisticated digital information platforms and large amounts of genetic and biological data – are changing the players involved and the way in which health and healthcare systems function. A more tailored approach to screening, diagnostics, treatment and cure can improve outcomes and potentially lower costs. Government, industry, academics, civil society and patient groups need to collaborate to ensure that the whole of society is able to benefit from rapid advances in technology and precision medicine.

The Data Policy portfolio focuses on maximizing the humanitarian and beneficial uses of data while seeking to develop practical solutions using a multi-stakeholder approach to policy-making. Projects include: Data policy toolkit; General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Cross Border data flows, re-imagining consent and trustworthy data for the common good.

C4IR-SA will explore data policy in all project areas, with specific projects in the portfolio being Data for the People and Precision Medicine