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African businesses urged to embrace technology

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African businesses must adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution or risk becoming obsolete, an expert has cautioned.

Dr Gustav Rohde, Chief Operating Officer of global engineering company Aurecon said that new technology enables a society to offer deep scientific knowledge and solutions to complex problems.

Speaking at the 54th Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lecture, hosted at the University of Pretoria, Dr Rohde observed that while digital technology is rapidly evolving the industry in South Africa was not adapting fast enough.

“A major concern is the lack of government-mandated Building Information Modelling standards(BIM) and practices,”he said.

BIM standards have been set in most countries by governments in cooperation with trade associations and professional associations.

Dr Rohde cautioned that unless South Africa quickly adopts technology, it would be playing catch up.

“In countries like Australia you can see smart buildings that measure the temperature, light, movement, humidity, keep a record of assets, and switch off the lights when people are not around.”

But the real challenge to African businesses would be to have skilled people in technology to help spearhead the shift, Dr Rohde noted.

“Engineers should lead the way. The should ensure that  the Fourth Industrial Revolution solves real problem facing the society today,” he added.

Engineers require a human-centric approach, which means they need to spend more time “understanding if we (and our clients) are solving the right problem – and by engaging with the end users and broader stakeholders, it allows us to create better and more sustainable solutions.

While Universities should be playing a major role in enhancing digital revolution, Dr Rohde expressed concerns that most of them were teaching nearly the same engineering curriculum that was taught 20 years ago.

“Knowledge and skills that helped us to succeed in the past will not guarantee a successful career in the future. Our rapidly changing world means we all run the risk of becoming obsolete at work – what I call our ‘sell-by date’.

The 54th Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lecture was hosted by the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology and the South African Academy of Engineering.

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