Digital Economy Summit 2019

Positioning South Africa to be Globally Competitive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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President Ramaphosa highlights 4th Industrial Revolution in SONA 2019 address

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is dramatically changing how we interact on every level: as individuals, as businesses and as nation states. 

The World Economic Forum defines the 4th IR as a ‘technological revolution’. It asserts that the transformation will be ‘unlike anything humankind has experienced before.’ To ensure that South Africa emerges from this transformation as a strong, digitally empowered nation, the 4IRSA (Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa) Partnership has been established.

4IRSA is an alliance between the recently renamed Department of Communications & Digital Technologies (DCDT), Telkom, Deloitte and the Universities of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg and Fort Hare. The partnership has extended to include global technology giant, Huawei and local mobile communications company, Vodacom.

“The pioneering 4IRSA Partnership is an open and inclusive partnership that has been formed to stimulate and facilitate a national dialogue and shape a coherent national response to the 4th IR in South Africa,” explains Professor Brian Armstrong of Wits University and Secretary of 4IRSA. “It complements and supports other critical national initiatives, most notably the Presidential Commission on the 4th IR.  Importantly, 4IRSA will develop an actionable plan based on in-depth research and collaborative, knowledge sharing forums. This plan will be developed with input from multiple constituencies including the public and private sectors, civil society and academia.”

To propel this process forward, the alliance will be hosting the 4IRSA Digital Economy Summit on 5 and 6 July 2019 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

Presidential support 

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about the 4th Industrial Revolution, the focal point of the Summit, in his State of the Nation Address to Parliament on Thursday 20 June. The President has indicated his strong support of the4IRSA initiative and will deliver the Digital Economy Summit’s opening address on the 4th IR on 5 July.

The invited attendees include CEOs of the top 100 JSE-listed companies in SA, as well as digital and innovation leaders from across the continent – with a view to bring the corporate, academic, and technology spheres together.

George Friedman as keynote speaker

The 4IRSA alliance is delighted to announce that George Friedman will be the keynote speaker at the Digital Economy Summit. Friedman is an internationally recognised geopolitical forecaster, international affairs strategist and best-selling author. Prior to founding Geopolitical Futures, Friedman guided the intellectual vision of Stratfor, the geopolitical intelligence publishing and consulting firm he founded in 1996. Friedman appears regularly as an expert on international affairs and intelligence on major television and radio networks. He is frequently quoted in leading American and international news publications.

Developing an inclusive dialogue

“The upcoming Digital Economy Summit seeks to bring together all the major role players to develop plans and to share insights that will ultimately feed into a Presidential strategy,” says Professor Armstrong. “This strategy will position South Africa to coordinate a strong and coherent response to the unfolding digital transformation.”

The Summit will feature various breakaway sessions to interrogate key themes, including: Competitiveness, Concentration and Inequality; The Future of Work and Jobs; Society, State & Citizen; Opportunities; Critical Success Factors and the 4th IR in the township economy.

A further round of breakaway sessions will take a deep dive into key issues, including: regulation of the digital economy; skills and teaching in the 4th IR: the what and the how; the relevance and measurement of digital readiness; physical infrastructure in the Digital Economy - electricity case study; AI and digital supply.
In addition to these sessions, headline speakers will be drawn from across the spheres of labour, academia, civil society and business.

“The Digital Economy Summit will provide a critical platform to begin the process of shaping a vibrant national dialogue around the 4th IR,” says Sipho Maseko, 4IRSA founding partner and Telkom CEO. “We must ensure that South Africa is positioned to harness the many opportunities that this technological revolution is presenting.”
For more information on 4IRSA, and to live stream the Digital Economy Summit on the 5th and 6th of July 2019, visit

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