DigitalSkills2022:Editor's Preface

The NEMISA Summit and Colloquium 2022, and the associated Postgraduate Symposium, was held on 15-17 March 2022 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Granger Bay, Cape Town. It was hosted by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in collaboration with the Knowledge for Innovation unit (K4I) at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the National ElectronicMedia Institute of South Africa (NEMISA).

A total of 697 delegates (102 physically, 217 virtually using Zoom and 378 streaming on Facebook) attended the three collocated events (Summit, Colloquium and Postgraduate), bringing together thought leaders and experts from the international community, government, industry and academia to address the future of work and digital skills in South Africa. The virtual delegates joined from 3 continents and 13 countries (excluding South Africa): Belgium, Côted'Ivoire, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Spain, Switzerland, United States and Zimbabwe. 11 of the 26 universities in South Africa participated.

The theme for the events was "The Future of Work and Digital Skills". The 4IR caused a hollowing out of middle-income jobs (Frey & Osborne, 2017) but COVID-19 exposed the digital gap as survival depended mainly on digital infrastructure and connectivity. Almost overnight, organizations that had not invested in a digital strategy suddenly realized the need for such a strategy and the associated digital skills. The effects have been profound for those who struggled to adapt, while those who stepped up have reaped quite the reward.

Therefore, there are no longer certainties about what the world will look like in a few years from now. However, there are certain ways to anticipate the changes that are occurring and plan on how to continually adapt to an increasingly changing world. Certain jobs will soon be lost and will not come back; other new jobs will however be created. Using data science and other predictive sciences, it is possible to anticipate, to the extent possible, the rate at which certain jobs will be replaced and new jobs created in different industries.

Accordingly, the collocated events sought to bring together government, international organizations, academia, industry, organized labour and civil society to deliberate on how these changes are occurring in South Africa, how fast they are occurring and what needs to change in order to prepare society for the changes.

The Honourable Deputy Minister of the Department of Communications and DigitalTechnologies (DCDT), Mr Philly Mapulane, delivered the opening keynote where he lamented the worrying employment rates, especially among the youth. He noted the importance of digital skills to advance South Africa in the digital economy and identified how the changes that digital technologies are causing at the social and economic levels have had a ripple effect on other sectors such as health and education. The Deputy Minister also announced the partnership between the ministry and the ITU, ILO, and UNDP to develop digital skills for decent jobs for youth and people not in employment, education, or training (NEET).

The host and Vice-Chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Prof Chris Nhlapo, welcomed everyone to the Smart CPUT 3.0. This 2030 vision aims for smart people in a smart community – umunye – oneness – where individuals embrace community amid times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. He prided in CPUT’s recent satellite constellation launched at SpaceX in California, whose data is being harvested at their Belville ground station.

The representative of the British High Commissioner, Mr Anthony Phillipson, delivered a message of support for the events. He described the need for concerted efforts to ensure that the digital economy's growth in South Africa also needs to be inclusive of women, youth, and underserved communities and meet the growing demands of employment. He indicated that the work of the UK government in South Africa has grown with a focus on six areas in the digital economy: promoting digital literacy and skills, developing community networks and locally relevant content, enhancing policy and regulation to support the growth of the digital ecosystem, strengthening cybersecurity and resilience, innovating scalable solutions to improve business connectivity, and training and business development for SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Prof Chris Adendorff, the celebrated futurist, Presidential 4IR Commissioner and Board Member of NEMISA, gave the keynote highlighting predicted future changes that have happened faster than expected. He also offered what the futuristic models predict for the near future and the impact of new technological innovations on life and existing social and business models. Some of these include the end of what we understand as education and offices; these are predicted to be robot-human influenced. The digital skills needed to adapt to such a world depend more on dynamic judgement and decision making and the fluency of ideas.

Full Research Papers

The Colloquium received 21 submissions, but only accepted eight full research papers for their theoretical and practical contribution toward advancing digital skills and the impact of technological innovations on future work.

Billy Kalema’s paper, Developing Countries’ Continuance Usage of E-Services after Covid-19 in the 4IR era identified factors that influence the continuance usage of e-services in a post-Covid-19 context. Data from SARS e-filing users found that exerted pressure and the perceived usefulness of the system are the main contributors to the continuance usage of e-services. The model informed by the Expectation Confirmation Theory and the Self-Determination theories isa useful guide for the continuance usage of e-services post-COVID.

Priscilla Maliwichi and Wallace Chigona investigated how maternal clients use infomediaries to access maternal mHealth interventions. In their study Factors Affecting the use of Infomediariesin MHealth Interventions: Case of Maternal Healthcare in Rural Malawi, they found that users of an MHealth intervention project in the Chipatala Cha Pa Foni project in Malawi, that do not own mobile phones, rather use mHealth infomediaries to access maternal health services. They developed a theoretical framework of m-Health infomediary use. Their key results reveal important factors that influence maternal clients use of mHealth infomediaries; the characteristics of the maternal client, characteristics of the mHealth infomediary, the perceived value of the mHealth intervention and socio-environmental factors. The study further shows the extent to which many people still lack access to technology yet satisfice through infomediaries.

Colin Chibaya’s review article sought to establish the actions of robotic devices in swarms which contribute to emergent behaviour at swarm level with the hope of prescribing the component knowledge domains of generic SIOs. Swarm Control Mechanisms for Modelling Generic SwarmIntelligence Ontologies offers categorization of robotic devices which forms the basis for the design of generic SIO knowledge domains. These generic SIOs will likely capture the different knowledge spaces towards expanding the scope of application of swarm intelligence systems.Colin highlights that the properties and quantifiers of emergency connoted in each case are also important components of generic SIOs that inspire the choices and features of the SIO parameters.

In an increasingly unpredictable post-Covid19 world there are various shifts in the political, economic, social and technical environments that are reshaping work, how work will be done, and employment opportunities. In their paper Naomi Isabirye, Hossana Twinomurinzi and Trevor Rammitlwa, offer a model and instrument that may help measure job susceptibility as a result of the Future of Work in any sector. The study: Operationalizing the Future Of Work to MeasureJob Susceptibility is based on the abductive methodology and made use of a critical literature review supported by an extant bibliometric review of the Future of Work. The model and instrument which operationalise the concept of the Future of Work also provide an overview of the risks and opportunities available for skills development. The paper highlights that while the primary trigger for the Future of Work is innovative technological advancement, practitioners and researchers should not ignore the equally important and complementary political, social and economic forces that accompany any industrial revolution.

Through a systematic literature review, Ntombiyokusa Nyoni, Patrick Ndayizigamiye and StellaBvuma explored the current challenges and motivations for adopting digital work, the technology acceptance models that scholars have relied on to research the notion of digital work as well the benefits of adopting digital work. The paper: Systematic Mapping Of Studies On The Adoption Of Digital Work In Developing Countries highlights that digital work has the potential to contribute to developing country economies. The results of the systematic mapping which included 31 primary studies, outlined a number of challenges with digital work including lack of resources due to high data costs and lack of devices used to conduct digital work, lack of infrastructure and negative perceptions of digital work. Some of the drivers behind digital work are: need for income, social value and an entrepreneurial spirit within digital workers. The paper calls for theoretical frameworks that may inform the adoption of digital work to benefit digital workers and private companies within developing countries.

Towards the Conceptual Digital Skills Framework in the South African Public and Private Sector by Elias Tabane proposed a conceptual framework for digital skills for the South African private and public sector. The study analysed extant literature to understand the definitions and concepts of digital skills required by the modern workforce. He highlights the type and category of current and future digital skills required by the South African government and private sector workforce to fully harness the opportunities offered by the digital era.

Nosipho Mavuso and Olutoyin Olaitan adopted a structured literature review method to compare the current school curriculum, vis–a–vis the literature on what the 4IR economy requires of its workforce. The paper: Skilling and Reskilling Students for Relevance in a 4IR Economy, indicates that the current curriculum for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM) courses at most South African universities do not align with the skills requirements for a 4IR economy. This disjuncture leads to a state of unpreparedness of students in handling the fast-approaching revolution in skills demand. The study proposes four critical success factors that government can adopt to formulate strategic and sustainable plans to ensure that students are appropriately skilled and positioned to operate in a competitive 4IR economy once they enter the workforce. These critical success factors include a curriculum revisit, funding, equipment and support of vocational education and training, global collaborations to support students killing and reskilling as well as educational safe spaces for the development of soft skills.

In the paper entitled: Creativity in the 4IR Curricula with Artificially Intelligent Technologies, Norwell Zhakata, proposed a framework for reconceptualising creativity in the 4IR skills development era dominated by artificially intelligent devices. The framework is informed by a literature review which focused on the concept of creativity and furthermore relied on the ActorNetwork Theory to design the framework which may support understanding of creativity in the4IR skills development context. The paper highlights that creative learning in the 4IR should be driven by thought processes, human beings’ inherent crafting capabilities and the computing power of artificial intelligence. It is recommended that skills development and consequently learning programme design in the 4IR should occur in a framework that appreciates the fact that creative abilities have moved past capabilities confined to mental acts but should include both human beings’ manipulative abilities as well as the computing power of artificially intelligent systems.


The proceedings have been made possible by funding from the National Electronic MediaInstitute of South Africa (NEMISA) in collaboration with the Knowledge for Innovation Unit (K4I) at the University of South Africa (UNISA). We thank each of the NEMISA CoLabs and academic fraternity for the submissions and the efforts in making the NEMISA Summit and Colloquium, and the associated PostgraduateSymposium, a success.

We further thank the following organizations for financial and logistics support:

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
  • British High Commission (BHC)

Hossana Twinomurinzi
Nkosikhona Msweli
Tendani Mawela
15-17 February 2022
Radisson Blu Hotel, Granger Bay, Cape Town
South Africa