The Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) is the ongoing automation of traditional
manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated for increased
automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines
that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention. The revolution
creates new opportunities; developing countries can leapfrog stages of development and align
with developed markets by embracing technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data
analytics, and blockchain. The failure of the developing country government to embrace the
digital-driven 4th industrial revolution may result in being left behind.
Challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution
The 4th industrial revolution is not without its challenges. In Europe for example, the need for
investment, changing business models, data issues, legal questions of liability and intellectual
property, standards, and skills mismatches were identified as some of the significant challenges
identified (European Parliament 2016).
Some of these challenges are discussed below:
1. Potential job loses
The increased use of technology in the 4th industrial revolution has renewed fears of massive job
losses. In many developing countries, these fears are exacerbated by the fact that governments
are already struggling to curb a high unemployment rate. This is a severe blow considering the
country is struggling with a high unemployment rate.
2. Skill challenges
Skills, innovation systems, and knowledge communities provide the much-needed intellectual
guidance in the development and implementation of smart and digital initiatives. E-readiness (skills and e-literacy) have also been identified as fundamental in the success of the so-called
smart society. Skills challenges identified include skills mismatches and skills redundancy due to the changing nature of jobs as a result of advances in technology and manufacturing techniques.
Low e-readiness levels in developing countries like South Africa have been cited as a hindrance
in the transformation towards smart societies.
3. Infrastructure challenges
Developing countries are not only confronted by societal challenges but technological and
infrastructure challenges. Poor ICT infrastructure in developing countries is thus one of the
major challenges likely to confront governments in their bid to implement industry 4.0.
Broadband penetration, for example, is still low in developing countries compared to developed
economies that are considered leaders in broadband and other ICT infrastructure. In South
In Africa, poor broadband penetration was found to be one of the barriers hindering transformation to the so-called smart society driven by digital connectivity, advanced technology, skills, knowledge, and innovation to institute economic and social development.
4. Security and privacy
Security and data privacy issues have arguably become one of the most significant concerns in
the 4th industrial revolution where technology has become a driver. Integration of systems in the 4th industrial revolution requires the development of new security and protection mechanisms for the faster and more flexible collaborative value networks and smart production systems. The increased use of data analytics is also likely going to bring new challenges when it comes to issues of data privacy and protection. Moreover, privacy and security concerns in technology bring with it trust issues in the “smart” era.
Opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution:
Besides the problems that may arise or get bigger during the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there
are also significant economic and social opportunities that may contribute to sustainable
socio-economic growth. Industry 4.0 is described in different ways in order to present a
manufacturing revolution; for example, it is called the Manufacturing Renaissance in the US,
whereas it is made in China 2025 China.
The advancement of Germany is much more salient than other countries; for example, the
experts of Germany believe that they are now at level 3.8 and that it will take a decade, maybe less, to reach 100% of Industry 4.0 manufacturing. This is because a company cannot move from
3.0 to 4.0 in a single day or step, since the migration takes time and there are various stages.
Although Industry 4.0 has been familiar and active in some western countries, the term is not
overly familiar among many organizational decision-makers or key planners in various countries.
Industry 4.0 is very much important for the manufacturing-dependent countries, which are
economically growing fast based on their production of different products and services. Some
experts have opined that people in countries who are new to the industrial sector are confused
and are facing structural challenges over the term Industry 4.0; therefore, it has taken time to
apply and adopt the elements of Industry 4.0 and to gain the benefits of this.
However, developing and emerging countries such as India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil,
Malaysia, Nigeria, and Thailand, have been trying to adapt to Industry 4.0. Hence, they have
been investing in technologies so that humans can be integrated for the development of the
production level. Nevertheless, there has been a lack of empirical research that reveals the
prospects of Industry 4.0 in Bangladesh, which is projected to be the twenty-eighth largest
economy in the world by 2030.
4th Industrial Revolution requires developing countries to negotiate the challenges brought by
their socio-historic, socio-economic and economic contexts. Developing countries need to
develop models or strategies that are responsive and relevant to their context instead of blindly
adopting so-called “exemplary models” that have worked in contexts that are different from the
developing country adopting them. There is also a greater need to develop strategies that bring
social benefits instead of focusing primarily on economic prospects brought by the 4th industrial
revolution. Strategies should also look into innovative ways of addressing socio-economic
challenges such as potential job losses, widening wage gaps, and skills redundancy. In
demonstrating the benefits of the 4th industrial revolution, the government should also explain
how social innovations in industry 4.0 can address some of society’s challenges and improve the
quality of life and social well-being of citizens.