What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Welcome to the Transformation Region platform, powered by GW3 and you, the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region.

There’s a lot of hype around the fourth industrial revolution. Hollywood has glorified it as a dystopian fantasy, the media report on whatever seems to move fast and break things and a lot of us are still scratching our heads wondering when it will arrive and what it means for our communities?

So let’s get some of the big questions out of the way before we dive into what this means for the Greater Whitsundays and how the Transformation Region platform is future-proofing the region. 

What is the fourth industrial revolution?

The fourth industrial revolution or ‘4IR’ is the rapid acceleration of digital technologies. Think how video games started as an arcade game and now is a tool to help train pilots or how Facebook started as a dating website for university students and grew to become, well, Facebook.

4IR has now become an all encompassing word to describe disruptive technologies which rely on digital information. Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D printing, cloud computing, robotics and the internet of things, are just a few examples for 4IR technologies. 

It’s the focus of this platform because our region’s ongoing success depends on our ability to adapt. How our community uses these technologies to build new businesses, improve productivity and explore emerging industries such as bio-futures and ag-tech will determine how successful we are in the 4IR.

Being able to program robots to perform dangerous tasks or keep drivers from veering off the road are positive outcomes we can all agree on, but they also raise genuine concerns around our relationship to work and society.

In addition to providing the tools needed to prepare our community for 4IR, the Transformation Region platform is also a place to share concerns and build a shared vision for the future.


Putting the I in 4IR

Let’s knock one of the big myths out of the way. There’s a very big ‘I’ in 4IR, meaning, at the end of the day, people are still needed to operate the technologies that’ll transform our economy and the businesses that’ll drive the next wave of employment.

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions is the idea that artificial intelligence will take over the workforce. The reality is computers are getting better at managing more complex tasks with little to no human oversight, but they’re not very good at operating in the creative or intuitive thinking space. 

We may be able to program an autonomous naval vessel how to sail from one location to the next, but a human will need to do the rest. A robot simply cannot perform each task needed to deliver goods from one port to the next. Technologies perform discrete tasks along the way while humans complete the rest and find ways to improve performance. 

4IR is the blurring of boundaries between physical work and digital technologies. Artificial intelligence can perform repetitive tasks with no intervention, but human workers are needed to manage risk, solve problems and communicate in a more meaningful way than just exchanging data.

What people don’t see behind the companies that’ve popularised 4IR like Google or Tesla are regular people who operate these systems behind the scenes and a new generation of skilled workers who are constantly looking at ways to improve the technologies. 


Leading change in the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region

Greater Whitsunday Alliance believes the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region is in a state of transformation with a powerful ecosystem of businesses that are good at solving problems using technology, without even realising they are at the forefront of the 4IR.

That being said, technology is evolving at a pace never seen before and local industries need to prepare for future jobs to avoid skills shortages and ensure workforce supply meets demand.

GW3 is working with local industries to prepare for our future success by collaborating across a number of projects. This Transformation Region platform is a tool to help us all along this journey.


What is the Transformation Region platform?

This platform aims to future-proof the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region by providing our communities with information and collaboration opportunities to help us navigate the fourth industrial revolution.

Sharing stories of local innovators and success stories is at the heart of this enterprise. By promoting the work of local industry heroes, highlighting their challenges and their thinking, we can better understand how local businesses have overcome barriers and generated opportunities using a growth mindset.

Insights from some of the world’s top futurists will also be shared to unpack some of the big questions around the future of work. Information will be shared to keep the community up to date on the latest trends and links to free training programs will be shared to help readers apply what they’ve learned.

All of this falls under GW3’s vision for the region: Making the Mackay Isaac Whitsunday region strong for generations.

Maintaining this vision means the region needs to constantly evolve and transform and the journey is already underway.

On this platform, the community will find information segmented into four key areas:

  • Transforming our region: a consultative approach to economic development built on a vision of the region’s economic future.

  • Future skills: a workforce that is skilled and prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

  • Future business hub: an opportunity to showcase local businesses that are transforming how they operate in their industries.

  • Prosperous community: securing the region’s prosperity by preparing for the 4IR.

GW3 encourages businesses to have their say on the region’s economic future by sharing their lived experiences, challenges and opinions in the discussion forums. Businesses are also invited to participate in online polling to help develop a shared vision of the region’s economic future and contribute to public discussions. 

Let us know how your business is adapting to the fourth industrial revolution by commenting in the forum below.

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