Original Research

Critical soft skills for information and knowledge management practitioners in the fourth industrial revolution

Kagiso Mabe, Kelvin J. Bwalya
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 24, No 1 | a1519 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v24i1.1519 | © 2022 Kagiso Mabe, Kelvin J. Bwalya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2022 | Published: 24 June 2022

About the author(s)

Kagiso Mabe, Department of Information and Knowledge Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Kelvin J. Bwalya, Department of Information and Knowledge Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Many technology jurisdictions have peddled the narrative that the key determinant for an innovative and sustainable fourth industrial revolution (4IR) environment is possessing hard technical skills. Hard technical skills are important to design the actual 4IR-based applications. Postmodernity demands that appropriate soft skills complement the hard skills to effectively integrate technology into various socio-economic value chains. In fact, soft skills are slowly becoming one of the critical enablers to harness the promise of the 4IR.

Objectives: This research article aimed to critically understand the soft skills considered to be essential in the South African context by different information and knowledge management (IKM) practitioners. The aims and objectives of the study were to fill the gap where other disciplines have specified soft skills whilst IKM does not. This study looked to identify soft skills to allow IKM practitioners an opportunity to identify and develop these skills.

Method: This research was designed based on the Delphi study principles and further used a systematic and targeted literature review to allow the researchers to make logical conclusions deductively. The authors followed a multimethod approach and analysed data using content analysis.

Results: The study results have demonstrated that soft skills are considered significantly more important than hard skills in South Africa. The study identified 57 total skills. However, only 17 had consensus from experts.

Conclusion: This study provides insights into the critical success skills needed to harness the socio-economics brought about by the 4IR. Further studies are required in different contextual settings to understand the global skills pertinent to the 4IR.


soft skills; the fourth industrial revolution; information and knowledge management; information science; Delphi study


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