Academics weigh in on threats of 4IR in HEI

The technologies that will emerge during the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) will impact on us in negative ways if we do not actively get involved in the processes of creating them in order to align their properties and functions to our needs.

This was the sentiment during one of the panel discussions that took place at the 4th Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) which was recently held at uMfolozi Casino and Convection Centre.

An initiative of the University of Zululand’s (UNIZULU) Teaching and Learning Centre, the theme of TLC this year was the much-debated topic of the 4IR. Through this topic, the centre sought to spark conversations concerning the effects of 4IR in the teaching and learning environment. The centre hoped to find realistic solutions to the problems the higher education sector faces in aligning their curriculum to 4IR, while also discovering a suitable approach to better equipping academics, students, learners and teachers to adapt to the teaching and learning environments of 4IR.

In the panel discussion, five academics representing various institutions including UNIZULU dissected the emerging threats for higher education institutions and organisations wanting to embrace 4IR. According to Professor Nkqubela Ruxwana, Research Group Lead: Cyber Security at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in as much as we are excited about the technologies of 4IR, we need to be wary of their threats and dangers as we embrace them.

“If we are not involved in terms of their development, if we are not curious about what it is they (the technologies) are bringing, how they are positioned, what will work for us and will not, then we have no choice of rejecting or accepting them. We have to be actively involved or are curious about them so that if there are things that seem to be stepping on our toes, we can reject them. But if we don’t get involved, decisions will always be made for us and cyber security threats will prevail,” Prof Ruxwana said.

Cyber security was also discussed as one of the threats of 4IR, especially considering the automation of many things in this revolution. Weighing in on this issue, Dr Neil Evans, a senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Information Studies, said the principle of not trusting anything that seems to be too good to be true will have to apply.

He added that the securing of computers and mobile devices will also need to be intensified.

  • Naledi Hlefane

Caption

Dr Neil Evans, one of the panelists during the plenary sessions of the Teaching and Learning Conference.