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The Fourth Industrial Revolution, fondly known as the 4IR, is an instrument for job creation and not job losses as is commonly feared.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/06/26

According to Tom Raferty, SAP's global vice president, futurist and innovation evangelist, disruption to an industry ultimately leads to more diverse job opportunities, with innovation resulting in more, new and different jobs for people, rather than taking jobs away overall.

As an example, a white paper by the Enel Foundation explores the potential of combining fine-grained smart meter consumption data with cellular phone data records to increase the effectiveness of electricity non-technical losses detection.

For this concept to be successful, a workforce trained to interpret the smart meter data will be required. It opens the opportunity for new skills to be developed and entrepreneurs to offer associated consulting services to the utility market.

However, have you found that utilities are reluctant to explore the use of technologies such as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence within the strict confines of the electricity supply network?

There is, of course, good reasons for this, but as distributed generation capacity increases, solar and wind, the utilities can look to 4IR innovations to safeguard the network.

In his State of the Nation Address, South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, asked us to imagine and dream. He said, "Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? I want to invite South Africans to begin imagining this prospect."

Regardless of how futuristic you believe his statement to be, the time is right for our energy landscape to take up the 4IR technologies and use them to foster progress.

Look out for the launch of ESI Africa issue 3 in July, which has a focus on digitalisation including topics on digital skills and 5G for utilities.

Until next week, Nicolette