“Technology is a gift from God. After the gift of life, it is probably the greatest of Gods gifts. It is the mother of civilisations, of arts and of sciences” Freeman Dyson

The South African mining and engineering sector is encumbered and, in most cases, declining. Jobs continue to be shed as old uneconomically viable assets become mothballed. Tensions with labour continue unabated, and all the while global capital finds greener pastures to graze in. The conversation around transformation cannot be one of economic empowerment alone, but one of digital transformation as well. We need to not only economically transform our industries but digitally transform them as well, or we will continue to divide a shrinking pie to its inevitable conclusion.

There is a unique opportunity in South Africa to use the “soft capital” available for economic transformation, to seed a digital revolution spearheaded by small and medium black owned companies. Nowhere else in the world is there such a progressive legislation that funnels funding from corporate wallets to support and foster the growth of young transformed companies. However, as much as the legislation is very progressive we need to be focused on outcomes to make sure we don’t end up with only a few pockets of success. Every year billions of Rand are spent enabling suppliers and driving preferential procurement, but in most cases this is still viewed as a cost of doing business, and not an opportunity to transform the supply chain.

There is a massive opportunity to drive real inclusive growth by changing our expectations of the capital we make available for transformation.

We are entering an age where technology is having a massive impact on the workforce. It will be virtually impossible for us as a country to drive a model of low-cost unskilled labour if we are to pull the median citizen out of poverty. The economics 101 answer is simple; support entrepreneurship, double down on infrastructure and make sure our education system is pushing out high quality people with the right skill sets. But the reality is that we are not keeping up, and the majority of our populous is ill prepared for the machine age that is well upon us. We need to actively think how we infuse young companies with digital technologies and thinking, so that they can perform tasks well above their level of qualification and experience. There is no doubt that we need a different model to deal with these problems. We require 10x thinking. In the years to come it will be possible to dematerialise knowledge, insight and even experience. We need to actively consider how we make use of technologies to not only empower companies, but to transform our industries to remain globally relevant.

WorleyParsons have put together a seminal event to discuss how digital technologies and thinking have the ability to transform the value chains of the South African industry. In partnership with top thought leaders from the mining, engineering and energy WorleyParsons will be running a digital transformation accelerator workshop for top 50 companies that form part of the Enterprise & Supplier Development programmes not only of WorleyParsons but also of the likes of Afrox, Honeywell, South32 and others. Part of the this highly intensive and practical training will be a conference to facilitate discussions with business and executives on supplier digital innovation, followed by a networking event. It is the hope of the organisers that this will be the beginning of a conversation that is so sorely needed to drive inclusive growth in South Africa.