COVID-19 pandemic and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR): Reflection on the challenges and opportunities in South Africa




coronavirus disease 2019, digital transformation, Fourth Industrial Revolution, social distancing


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has changed people’s interactions dramatically, be it with the government, the outside world, or one another. It has compelled society to change the standards for decision-making in areas such as health and education, and how people live, work, play, and do business. As a result of the new behavioral patterns imposed by governments around the world, including the South African government, there has been technological advancement through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In South Africa, key economic sectors such as healthcare, education, and finance have served as digital change engines. Without a doubt, technology has been able to halt the spread of the virus. The main objective of this paper is to raise awareness of 4IR and to identify opportunities presented by 4IR for South Africa and the challenges presented by 4IR in resolving COVID-19 issues. It examines the relationship between evolving technological advances brought about by 4IR and COVID-19. Following a review of the relevant literature, the study’s findings revealed that prior to the pandemic, several sectors were wary of, and slow to accept, 4IR. Despite the benefits of 4IR, many African countries face difficulties across various sectors. Almost all African countries are unprepared for 4IR, with the exception of South Africa, which is considered partially ready and ranks 22nd on the automation readiness index. African countries that have embraced digital transformation have cited South Africa as a case study due to its adoption of 4IR. Despite the benefits, several barriers to the adoption and use of 4IR technologies have been identified in developing countries, including South Africa, which has the opportunity to adopt consistent 4IR.

Author Biographies

Stanley Osezua Ehiane, PhD

Department of Politics and Administrative Studies, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana; Department of Development Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa

Soomaya Khan, PhD

College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu- Natal, Durban, South Africa

Aneesah Khan, PhD

Department of Development Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Leonard L. Sesa, PhD

Department of Political and Administrative Studies, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana


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How to Cite

Ehiane, S. O., S. Khan, A. Khan, and L. L. Sesa. “COVID-19 Pandemic and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR): Reflection on the Challenges and Opportunities in South Africa”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 22, no. 3, May 2024, pp. 291-00, doi:10.5055/jem.0832.