Address by Geraldine J Fraser-Moleketi at the 19th Annual SAAPAM Conference, Nelspruit Mpumalanga
“Government of the People for the People: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Belongs to Them”.
14 May 2019
Government of the People for the People!
“Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.
Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.” President Nelson Mandela inauguration, May 10, 1994.
‘The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us” (President Nelson Mandela, Inauguration speech 10 May 1994)
Here we meet days after the national elections; the nature of it; the campaign … what an apt title:Government of the People for the People: The 4th industrial revolution belongs to them I must confess the question crossed my mind, who is them? The government , the people…. I conclude that the emphasis is on “government of the People for the people” lest we forget. Our focus in this instance is to bridge the new ‘chasm’ in a society that comes from a divided past and we should do so alive to the challenges we confront as a developing country and developing world.
WEF on the 4th Industrial Revolution ….”Previous industrial revolutions liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however,fundamentally different. It is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
The resulting shifts and disruptions mean that we live in a time of great promise and great peril. The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organizations and even manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions.” In the past or rather to date However, Schwab also has grave concerns: that organizations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.”(WEF)
Linking it to our recent elections and the imperative of AI and technology I would like to draw on Prof Yuval Noah Harari, in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, when he says ‘Both politicians and voters are barely able to comprehend the new technologies, let alone regulate their explosive potential. Since the 1990’s the Internet has changed the world probably more than any other factor, yet the Internet revolution was directed by engineers more than political parties. …”
Harari asks the question “did you ever vote about the internet? The democratic system is still struggling to understand what hit it, and is hardly equipped to deal with the next shocks, such as the rise of AI and block chain revolution.” … on Finance he says , “as AI improves we might soon reach a point when no human can make sense of Finance any more. What will that do to the political process? Can you imagine a government waits humbly for an algorithm to approve its budget or its new tax reform? Meanwhile peer-to-peer blockchain networks and crypto currencies like bitcoin may completely revamp the monetary system, so that radical tax reforms will be inevitable. For example, it might become impossible or irrelevant to tax dollars, because transactions will not involve a clear cut exchange of national currency, or any currency at all… “ mind you this may not be a far fetched notion must is it may not happen tomorrow.
In dealing with the 4th Industrial Revolution belonging to the People I would like to refer to our Constitution with a focus on key sections for this discipline, this community Community of
Section 195 of the Constitution of South Africa, 1996.Basic values and principles governing public administration
- Public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including the following principles:
a. A high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained.
b. Efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted.
c. Public administration must be development-oriented.
d. Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.
e. People’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making.
f. Public administration must be accountable.
g. Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.
h. Good human-resource management and career-development practices, to maximise human potential, must be cultivated.
i. Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness, and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.
- The above principles apply to
a. administration in every sphere of government;
b. organs of state; and
c. public enterprises.
These values inform our discipline and our work whether we are practitioners, scholars/academics and students of Public Administration. This values must find resonance in “Government of the People for the People: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Belongs to Them” and its application much as this may be challenging. Saapam has a role to play in its realization. Before a take this discussion further I would like to make reference to the Sustainable Development Goals with an emphasis on Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. This is after all the most ambitious global compact that must be seen in regional, national and sub-national contexts.
The UN has committed to the most ambitious global compact humanity has seen through the Sustainable Development Goals that have been adopted by heads of state and government, it has been shaped by civil society and embraced, albeit reluctantly in some instances by the private sector. Saapam must carve out its role in the implementation particularly of SDG 16 which is a cross cutting goal.
At the 18 th session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration [8 – 12 April 2019], the paper, Enhancing the capacity of the public sector in a fast-changing world for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals considered matters, among others, on –
“III. New technologies and the public sector”
The paper acknowledges that “Technology has become one of the most important factors in determining possibilities in the field of development. It is also one of the most disruptive factors that may affect Governments and societies. A successful transition to the fourth industrial revolution now depends on the proliferation of technology and how the process is managed.
Governments that have the expertise to foresee how new technologies can be used to make public policies and services more effective, inclusive and accountable have an advantage over those that do not. Similarly, Governments with such expertise often also have the capacity to protect their citizens from potential harm caused by, or from the negative externalities of, technologies. They are quick to initiate the sandboxing of new technologies in order to design the appropriate policies to enable and regulate them.
There is ample room for all public sectors to embrace technology so as to achieve higher productivity and efficiency. However, owing to the unevenness of adaptability and adoption rates, the digital divide is now characterized not only by marginal gaps in society at the national level, but also by gaps among countries at the International level.”
“Social media has considerably shifted the ways in which people communicate.Instant messaging that allows the transfer of text, audio and video is a powerful tool of communication between the Government and citizens, and vice versa. Many Governments and public agencies now have social media accounts and use a variety of instant messaging apps to communicate with their constituents.’
“E-government has made significant strides across the globe, but developments are still strikingly uneven across regions and countries, as demonstrated by the United Nations e-Government Survey. For example, Estonia has allowed non-citizens toobtain e-residency status, empowering many to easily join the digital market ecosystem. The country is aiming to end all paperwork for public services. The Government of Singapore provides virtually all its services online, ranging from tax-related transactions, police services and public housing to central provident funds. Since 2016, Denmark has mandated that all citizens use online public services and receive emails rather than paper mail as proof of transactions”.
“The Internet of things is a sensor network of smart devices or any objects that connect to each other without human intervention. They can range from household devices, such as coffee machines, alarm clocks, digital calendars, smartphones, wearable devices, lamps and washing machines, to large-scale city transportation and parking systems, car navigation systems, garbage collection systems and energy and security systems. Cloud-based platforms of this type allow the mass storage of data that enables big data analytics. Such information helps Governments make better-informed policies. Smart city projects are examples of how some local governments are integrating the Internet of things into their city infrastructure systems and are generating big data to better monitor and design city services. Some areas of application may include workforce analysis, traffic, emergency responses and the detection of anomalies in financial transactions and travel patterns.”
There is a recognition that “Blockchain technology has immense potential to overhaul the processes and ourunderstanding of authenticity, asset ownership and the role of Governments as mediators and verifiers of information. Mostly known as the technology behind cryptocurrencies, the blockchain is a digital ledger that can be programmed to recordeverything of value and resembles a spreadsheet that is duplicated numerous times across a network of computers. Once recorded, the transaction is permanently available in the blockchain system, thereby making the transaction for ever public andunchangeable. Private companies, civil society groups and Governments are experimenting with this technology in a variety of fields. Private banks, including Standard Chartered, and central banks, such as the Bank of Canada, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England and the EuropeanCentral Bank, have begun to pilot projects using this distributed ledger technology.”
“Artificial intelligence is also developing at a phenomenal speed, thanks to big data generated online in recent years, improvements in machine learning algorithms and the advancement of cloud-based services. There are five broad applications for artificial intelligence:2 (a) reasoning, or the ability to solve problems through logical deduction; (b) knowledge, or the ability to present knowledge about the world; (c) planning, or the ability to set and achieve goals; (d) communication, or the ability to understand spoken and written languages; and (e) perception, or the ability to infer things via sensory outputs such as sounds and images”
“Artificial intelligence has been applied in many fields, including health, education, security, entertainment, business, finance, manufacturing and the automobile industry. In the case of the automobile industry, autonomous vehicles ordriverless cars are being tested in some cities. This new way of travelling will require a redesign not only of the physical infrastructure, but also of laws, regulations, insurance and the provision of services related to commuting and mobility. Forinstance, Singapore has been testing autonomous vehicles and the associated datamanagement systems, thereby paving the way for generating new clusters of digital services that go beyond simply solving traffic problems and extend to lessening energy consumption and promoting economic development”.
There are numerous other potential uses of artificial intelligence technology. China, for instance, has a national artificial intelligence strategy and is upgrading infrastructure, research and development and skills development accordingly. According to research published by the International Telecommunication Union, it is predicted that artificial intelligence will result in more of a skills shift than a labour shift.3 In sum, there is enormous room to utilize artificial intelligence to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, and some Governments are moving faster than others in this respect.
The key new technologies mentioned above can be used positively to their fullest potential only when the public sector and reforms of the public workforce shape existing beliefs, cultures, practices and rules to accommodate them. A simple example is how most Governments still require the production of paper documents or how many government bodies lack certain online services, citing the restriction of regulations such as the need to have ink-based signatures for verification. In such contexts, local governments and certain agencies may be more flexible and adopt new technologies to become trailblazers of progress and innovation.
The unevenness of adoption of such technologies among countries, regions, cities and agencies may further worsen inequality. Thus, it is important to ask why some Governments or agencies are faster at adopting new technologies than others.One answer is the capacity of the public sector and its workforce. Will this give rise to the emergence of a new public Administration paradigm that can be called “smart sustainable governance”? (CEPA working paper 2019)
In the Business Day, 13 May 2019, the journalist Saret Oberholzer writes that “AI model beats radiologists in early detection of lung cancer” “Google announced that it has created AI that can potentially identify lung cancer a year before a human doctor can.’”using a computed tomography (CT) scan, Google’s AI spotted subtle lung lesions that five out of six radiologists had missed. Spotting lung cancer this far in advance has life saving potential and can increase the survival rate of patients by 40%.”
“In a different trial being carried out by the UK start-up Metopad in conjunction with Chinese tech company Tencent, inroads are being made into detecting Parkinson’s disease. …” We are aware that in South Africa that technology has become common place in the medical profession…. are we ready as a discipline to deal with these implications in a changing world.
Let us look at relevance, Prof. Yuval Harari points to the instance of “Deep Blue” defeating “Kasparov” … in the years immediately there after “human-computer cooperation flourished in chess. Yet in recent years [computers] have become so good at playing chess that their human collaborators lost their value, and might soon become utterly irrelevant.” He points out that on December 7, 2017 a milestone was reached when “Google AlphaZero programme defeated the Stockfish 8 program.”. Stockfish 8 was the worlds computer chess champion for 2016.” “What is happening to to human-AI chess teams may happen down the road to human-AI teams in policing, medicine and banking too.” (Tyler Cowan in ‘Average is over’). Are we ready to deal with this potential ready …or can we change it?
So, Harari points out “Consequently, creating new jobs and retraining people to fill them will not be a one-off effort. The AI revolution will not be a single watershed event after which the job market will settle into a new equilibrium. Rather it will be a cascade of ever-bigger disruptions. Already today few employees are expected to work in the same job for their their entire life.” (Maddaline Ansil: Jobs for life are a thing of the past. Bring on lifelong learning).
As a Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) we developed
Principles of effective governance for sustainable development
Leaving no one behind
These principles were adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Will SAAPAM consider the application of these principles, including, in the endeavor to work towards a realization of “Government of the People for the People: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Belongs to Them”.
In conclusion let us make a link back to the South African Constitution: Section 195 (g.) Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.
This value has found practical application through the Independent Open Budget Survey assessment of transparent budgeting ( every two years) since 2006
In 2010 South Africa ranked ranked 1st out of 92 countries scoring 92%;
In last iteration of 115 countries South Africa ranked first in a tie with New Zealand at 89 %.
In the words of Dondo Mogajane, Director General of Treasury, “Increased public participation in budgeting gaining momentum; South Africans invited to scrutinize budget information and provide opinions on government service delivery”
“Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) publications describe in detail government’s expenditure plans over the next three financial years, also known as the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period. The 2018 MTEF period is from 2018/19 to 2020/21. Shows how budgets have spent over the past year by departments]” so, “Government of the People for the People: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Belongs to Them” is becoming a reality but we must do more before it is done for us.
In the Financial Mail, Kate Ferreira: May 9 – May 15 2019 points out that there are “Digital Tech tools to empower people. A movement called civic tech uses technology to make it easier for people to access information and services” “Initiatives like amandla.mobi (a petition and campaign organizer) and municipalmoney.gov.za ( the national treasury’s extensive budget data portal) can be used to empower people or support a cause”
For us we must make President Mandela’s words…“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all” a reality understanding that the world of work is changing, that bread water and salt may be sourced differently. Is this about BIG that even the private sector and the silicone valley is talking about ….
let’s us join in and reinvent ourselves to avoid irrelevance …