Delays in information and communication technology (ICT) policy implementation, as well as a lack of improvement in basic education and current, coordinated data, are reducing the potential economic contribution of the ICT sector, according to the University of the Witwatersrand-based Johannesburg College for Software Engineering (JCSE) 2017 ICT Skills Survey.
There is a need for rapid transformation and empowerment to match the recognition of the ICT sector’s value as an economic contributor, highlights JCSE applied research manager and report author Adrian Schofield.
The report highlights the increased demand for cybersecurity practitioners and the growth in software development.
“While broadly similar to past reports, there is an undeniable urgency to make progress if South Africa is to benefit from the impending global upswing in the ICT market, estimated to reach US$4-trillion in 2018.
“Demand for relevant skills will continue to outstrip supply, giving South Africa an opportunity to empower its unemployed youth to fill the gap, boost the economy and extend these benefits into the broader continent,” he emphasises.
Further, while the stagnant local economy continues to restrict growth in the demand for ICT skills, owing to limited budgets, the global recession of recent years seems to be abating and, consequently, demand in Europe and the US for ICT skills is generally strong.
However, despite this upswing, South Africa is lagging its peers in Africa, notably Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt, with these countries pursuing the value that technology adds to economic growth and social development, says Schofield.
The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority notes that the ICT sector is estimated to contribute more than R250-billion (about 6%) to South Africa’s R4-trillion gross domestic product.
The country and all its stakeholders need to recognise their dependence on ICT and what needs to be done with a greater sense of urgency, says Schofield.
“We need to acknowledge and actively address the need for investment in teaching and training; the potential contribution to society that ICT skills will make; the benefits that can come from better coordination and planning; and the urgent need to move plans from discussion to execution.”
The lack of policy implementation, such as migrating from analogue television signals and the roll-out of broadband networks, frustrates the potential contribution of the ICT sector to the overall economy.
“The report yet again emphasises the concern [over the] lack of improvement in South Africa’s basic education for the majority of pupils. Exposure to and familiarity with ICT for all learners are essential to enable them to use modern tools in their daily lives,” adds JCSE director Professor Barry Dwolatzky.
“Some laudable initiatives have appeared, such as the use of tablets in Gauteng schools, but they have yet to reach a sustained, critical mass for all grades,” he concludes.