Subjects like coding and data analytics will be introduced at primary school level in order to prepare South Africans for the new world of work, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In his State of the Nation Address last month Ramaphosa commented on the challenges and opportunities created by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
This evolution has the potential to improve the quality of life while placing some traditional jobs at risk.
“We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of green growth, of low-carbon industrialisation, of pioneering new technologies and of taking quantum leaps towards the economy of the future.”
He noted the importance of "scaling up skills development for young people in new technologies, and reducing data costs.”
To this end the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has established the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research and other capacity building projects in order to drive technological advancement in the South African context.
Responding to SONA the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande said, "in recent years, the DST, has enabled the development of individual 4IR technologies (ICT), robotics, photonics and additive manufacturing."
Nzimande announced that government has already initiated a project to ensure that by 2021 all university and TVET college campuses would have highspeed broadband connectivity.
In addition a national Open Learning System is being developed to improve access to high-quality learning materials, resources and opportunities.
The Minister said that the DST also supported other sectors of the economy such as mining and agriculture to promote expansion and sustainability.
Higher Education meets Science and Technology
The merging of the DST and former Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is expected to open new pathways for transformation and advancement in the sector.
"... the integration of DST and DHET under a single Ministry offers the country with a unique set of strategic opportunities to realign, reposition and project their joint capabilities in new ways," said Nzimande.
The minister hailed the unification of the departments saying that the move would increase the presence and use of science, technology and innovation in the informal, township, rural and social enterprise sectors.
The departmental collaboration is also expected to improve coordination between higher education institutions and the science councils and address the relationship between the core outputs of the Higher Education and STI systems.
"The Department has just completed the National Plan for Post-School Education and Training (NPPSET), which will soon be released to give further impetus to these policy goals and objectives."