4IR: Is your university helping you prepare for the future?

Instead of being the objects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), let us become full participants in charge of this revolution.

Technology offers so many opportunities to humankind, such as the creation of a much greener economy. The implementation of the masters in embedded and mobile systems programme at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania, opens the way for students to become full participants in 4IR by engaging with societal problems.

For example, students are now developing a system for smart homes which gives them access to their appliances at home even when they are far away.

Furthermore, the students are equipped with the skills of machine learning which allows them to model various kinds of systems in various ways, turning them into real problem-solvers.

I have decided to learn Python language which will enable me to use it in machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence and computer science. I am a true follower of 4IR since I believe all society’s needs could be satisfied easily through technology.

Thon Malek, a student in the programme, won a prestigious international award from the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, after writing the proposal for the project titled ‘COVID-19 Remote Learning Emergency Fund for Educators’.

The major aim was to design instructional resources that could help educators effectively teach face-to-face, remotely, or in hybrid learning environments during this pandemic.

It is important that the research and innovation agenda should solve the problems that are surrounding our environment.

What about government funding?

But how can this happen if the government of Tanzania allocates TZS12.70 billion (US$5.5 million) of TZS34.879 billion for research and development projects in its budget? It is high time for the university and stakeholders to investigate the matter.

Thus, to be ready for the future, one must have a clear vision or road map of society’s needs. Education is evolving fast, not only in terms of reading the books and passing the exams, but also in terms of institutions’ position in society.

Do the universities empower students to keep up with 4IR? It is high time for universities to move away from a coaching style of exams and move into project-based learning.

Students need to be creative; they need to understand society, economy, and technology.

“One of the features of 4IR is that it doesn’t change what we are doing, but it changes us,” Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum was quoted as saying in an article on dynamicbusiness.com.

Therefore, 4IR will have a significant impact on our lives. It will not only alter the way we communicate, but it will also alter our own identity and give birth to new innovations such as smart traffic and smart government. From smart traffic to smart grid, a huge amount of data is generated, termed as big data. Big data will be used to tackle problems you would never have been able to.

Let me just take a step back. The first industrial revolution was the steam engine. The second brought the invention of mass production, electricity, the Ford T-model. The third industrial revolution brought the computer and the start of the internet.

Is 4IR the continuation of the third industrial revolution? The answer is no. The speed of 4IR is something to admire, looking at block chain (a specific type of database) and its practical applications in, for example, crypto currency transactions and self-driving cars.

Another difference between the third industrial revolution and 4IR is the combination of many technologies such as digitalisation and nanotechnology. In 4IR the digital, physical and biological worlds are fused together.

The development also has a dark side. People will lose jobs because all the mental and physical activities will be done through artificial intelligence, for example the development of Tesla vehicles with full driving capabilities.

In an article on the website of the recruitment group CHANGE, the World Economic Forum reports that 38% of businesses believe AI and automation technology will allow employees to carry out new productivity-enhancing jobs while more than 25% of companies think automation will result in the emergence of new roles and responsibilities.

4IR requires quick action. Heads of universities in collaboration with governments need to know that the impact on students is huge. If what they (students) learn is not relevant to what the outside world needs, then they are left outside the folds of the labour market.

Universities and the government need to provide an environment for students to learn how to use the tools of 4IR. This will help reduce unemployment and poverty in our country.

Florian M Rwegoshora has a bachelor degree in electrical and electronic engineering. He is working towards a masters in embedded and mobile systems at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania.