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Increasingly, universities are being called upon to leverage the opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution affords them and mount relevant initiatives that yield better livelihoods in local and international communities. Yet most rural-based universities and campuses, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have limited resources. This makes it difficult for them to effectively engage the communities they are supposed to serve. In this paper, we share the results of an exploratory study carried out to unlock the perspectives of academics and postgraduate students on (a) how opportunities from the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be used to strengthen community engagement initiatives and yield better local and international impact, (b) the potential challenges associated with the latter, and (c) how prospects associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be used to make an impact on the experiences and lessons learned through community engagement at the international level. A semi-structured interview guide with open-ended questions was emailed to professors, senior lecturers, and postgraduate students at a rural-based university in South Africa. The same questionnaire was emailed to development practitioners operating in various parts of South Africa. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis from Atlas.ti version 8.4. Resistance to change was found to be the major hindrance to the uptake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution-related opportunities. Providing multi-stakeholder facilitation, training, and infrastructural support for relevant technology to grassroots communities were suggested as interventions worth pursuing to address the resistance to change.


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  • Alternative title

  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 13

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • License
  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      The National Research Foundation of South Africa funded this research through the project named “Internationalizing Postgraduate Training and Grassroots Social Change” (Project Number 105215). We are grateful to postgraduate students, academics and development practitioners who participated in the study.