Revolutions happen to fix a gap, a need, solve a teething technological challenge, and address a persistent social-economic or cultural problem, besides make life bearable, convenient, and smooth.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam to mechanise production, thus substituting agriculture with cottage industries as a foundation for economic growth and wealth creation.
The Second Industrial Revolution followed with the introduction of new energy sources, among them electric energy. Affordable and convenient energy sources did promote mass production through factory automation.
In addition to automating production systems, the introduction of electronics and information technology in 1969 further fired up full-blown automation of factors of production to the economy.
During the three industrial revolutions, developing countries played catch up, only benefiting out of piecemeal advancements arising from commercial engagements and co-operation with developed nations.
However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution under the digital lenses and knowledge management is swiftly evolving at a time when developing countries are fully alert to the needs of effective communication, and industrial, technological and social advancement through systems digitisation.
Unlike in developed economies, developing nations continue grappling with unique challenges of corruption, inadequate laws, and poor infrastructure, etcetera, that limit optimising evolving digital platforms in leveraging the social-economic benefits of digitisation.
In Kenya, for example, e-governance, e-commerce, and e-social spheres, as platforms for service delivery, information sharing, entertainment, and communication are inevitable disruptions to social, economic, and governance systems due to evolving innovations.
Developing economies will most likely get impacted extensively by the digital revolution, placing some government policies and agendas at crossroads. For instance, financial systems across the board are now fully automated, including bills settlement, online shopping, banking services etc.
Several institutions are contemplating downscaling on their workforce and embrace advancing digital technology to remain relevant.
The easiness at which goods and services get acquired under the digital platforms is a threat to the very foundation of most SMEs.
If poorly handled, the digital revolution will slowly perforate key government agendas, on wealth and employment creation, slowing down essential economic drivers.
Besides its real-time effect on commerce, the sprouting of a smart society under the digital revolution further leads to a rise of intelligent processes and systems that use advanced techniques and technologies that are inclined to social elements and behaviors, in designs and implementation.
The complexities of the digital revolution, not only shapes the cultural behaviors of the youths but equally brings about global competitiveness in commerce and technological innovations.
Developing economies should then strive to adapt and introduce minimal transformational programmes in enhancing technology, skills, and innovation capacities, and also develop responsive and relevant policies and pieces of training.
Again, there is a need to prepare industries, citizens, and governance systems on available opportunities, complexities, and aftereffects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the day to day operations, through regular updates and awareness creation that no one is taken unaware.
Furthermore, government agendas and policies under the affordable housing, food security, universal healthcare, and manufacturing be aligned structurally within the digital frameworks if indeed they will be actualised.
Kiragu Kariuki, Nyeri