The world is moving forward, driven by technology, at an extremely significant pace. And every now and then we come across terminologies, or buzzwords, that hold the potential to disrupt our lives. Yet it is often a burdensome task to keep up with these buzzwords, even for the tech-savvy communities. Things like Cloud, Quantum Computing, Blockchain, Big Data, Virtual Reality, and so on and so forth. And one other umbrella term that we often come across is the fourth industrial revolution. It is a term that references a predicted profound state of disruption that will affect businesses, households, communities, and even culture itself.
So, let’s pull up our sleeves and talk more about the fourth industrial revolution, or as it is also known as 4IR or Industry 4.0, and look at what it means for us. But before we get into what the fourth industrial revolution is, let us first have a look at what are the first three industrial revolutions that got us to where we are today:
- The First Industrial Revolution: Water and Steam to Mechanize Production
This revolution is defined by the transition that happened to manufacturing processes between 1760 to roughly 1820, mainly in Britain. It witnessed machinery replacing hand production methods, with the increased adoption of steam power and factory systems, which is referred to as mechanization. It was also the main driver in the societal transformation from rural to urban.
- The Second Industrial Revolution: Fuel and Electric Energy to Produce in Masses
After the first industrial revolution, the second industrial revolution came to add fuel to the fire, quite literally. This was the period between 1840 and 1914 where industrialization became vigorously rapid with the rise and adoption of innovations in steel production, combustion engines, electricity, railroad networks, gas and water supplies, and sewage systems. It cemented the shift from rural to factory life and opened the door for standardized goods and consumerism.
- The Third Industrial Revolution: Electronics and Information Technology
Almost a century later, electronics came into play with transistors and microprocessors, along with leaps in telecommunications and computers. And on top of that, nuclear energy was developed. The third industrial revolution drove the transformation from analog and mechanical to digital.
Having this overview into the history of industrialization is important because not only does it show us how our lives transformed and evolved with the evolution of technology, but also how our lives can still evolve in the future with more revolutions coming in sight, like the fourth industrial revolution.
The fourth industrial revolution will build on the third one, which saw the rise and domination of digitization and digitalization, by blurring the lines between what is digital and what is physical. I like to refer to the fourth industrial revolution as the empowerment revolution. It is a revolution that will impact lives not only by impacting manufacturing, as is the case historically, but will impact lives by understanding our anthropological behaviors and drivers then compliments them. This revolution will be built on an information boom on a scale we’ve never seen before, huge amounts of data collected not only from hand-held devices, but from everything around us, this is where Big Data and Internet of Things originate, by connecting tools, cars, fridges, traffic lights, dams, bulbs, TVs, air conditioners, you name it to the internet, autonomous technology from vehicles to factory robotics will free us from the labors that we experience daily, and all of that will be powered by supercomputers in Cloud environments. It is a revolution that will path the way for technology that adapts to us, and not the other way around.
And as an African myself, I like to think of what this means to our continent, and our planet. The key message here is empowerment. With internet becoming more and more available, tools designed in Germany can be printed in rural towns in Africa using 3D printing technology, civilians will be warned about natural disasters like forest fires, flooding, earthquakes beforehand to save lives from data collected from remote sensors, medical operations will be performed by a doctor in one part of the world on a patient in another part, maintenance cycles of roads and bridges will be accurately predicted to fight road fatalities, energy sources will adapt to our usage rates in order to save consumption. In many scenarios, a lot of labor-intensive tasks that Africans face daily will be freed. But then again, the previous industrial revolutions should’ve liberated these tasks, so why is this one any different? The answer is in the accessibility. Unlike the previous revolutions, this one is delivered by the Internet that, as we are witnessing, is becoming increasingly accessible every day, with the highly anticipated and revolutionary 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technologies right around the corner. We are potentially looking at a kind of revolution that, with the shackles of labor freed, will allow talent and cognitive abilities to shine brighter through online delivery, compared to traditional opportunities, which are not in abundance in Africa.
With that kind of revolution imminent, it is important for Africa to realize its potential. In that essence, online accessibility should become an absolute priority, and digital literacy programs will be nothing short of life-changing. The technology will come, that is certain, yet it is up to us to make it transform our lives for the best.
My full name is Galal Amr Ahmed Galal el-Din Ezzat (I go by Galal Amr), I come From Cairo, Egypt and I Studied Digital Media Engineering and Technology at the German University in Cairo. Currently work as an Associated Sales Representative at Cisco and my Hobbies are Playing video games, reading, watching and playing sports, diving, watching movies.
I am Passionate about people, technology, and sports, hoping to leave a smile! Here is a link to my linkedin profile we can connect and engage more on the subject at hand.