“A crisis is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us to stop doing things the normal way and move from our comfort zones, especially in our educational system,” says Whisper Maisiri, a PhD student in the Faculty of Engineering at the North-West University (NWU).
Whisper says the initiatives being implemented now, such as online learning, should have started even before the pandemic.
“The pandemic is facilitating the fast adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) thinking and principles. This is the best time to experiment with and adopt technologies that address the challenges posed by the pandemic and those that have been there before,” he says.
4IR refers to the fusion of the advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and more.
According to Whisper, 4IR technologies are not one-size-fits-all.
“Though the pandemic is global, our challenges are still totally different from the developed countries. For instance, we still have areas in the country that are not easily accessible by road and do not have a reliable electricity supply. In this case, we can use drone technologies to deliver vaccines – not only during the pandemic, but also as a normal practice going forward.”
Whisper says with the current Covid-19-related restrictions, it is difficult for students to have physical access to companies for vacation work and industry practice.
“In such cases, we can use virtual and augmented reality to give students access to practical industrial processes and applications. Companies are already doing this when training their employees,” he adds.
“We have massive challenges with youth unemployment and the pandemic has worsened the situation. To address this, we can use innovative technology to teach young people the relevant skills to assist them in becoming entrepreneurs.”
He concludes that South Africa must choose the path best suited to its own development.
“I would like to stress the point that we must be wise enough to select relevant technologies that address specific challenges in the country.”
NWU PhD student Whisper Maisiri.