Cape Town needs more skills programs for IT growth

Significant opportunities exist in the ICT sector in the Western Cape, which is the third largest employer in this region and worth about R43 billion (US$6.7 million). This is according to Masedi Molosiwa, Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITI) executive director, and keynote speaker at Futurex Cape 2004, which started in Cape Town Wednesday.

While there was growing recognition that the region contained “exceptional project management and software development skills”, Molosiwa says much still needed to be done to “address a huge skills program”.

“We have got to make learnership programs work and producing graduates with relevant and required skills is obviously also a big challenge,” he says, adding that structural transformation of the Western Cape ICT sector would require “unpacking black economic empowerment to make sure that it starts to happen”.

According to Molosiwa, other challenges include encouraging research and development, and providing business development support for small and medium enterprises. He says research conducted in the region last year indicated there were about 1,200 ICT and ICT-related companies in the Western Cape, with the U.K., Africa, Germany and Holland as their main export markets.

“Many companies are looking at outsourcing in this area, and there are a high number of start-up businesses here, which brings innovation into the market,” he comments. He adds that the region’s key strengths lie in software applications for financial services markets, mobile messaging, multimedia and bespoke solutions.

Johan Jacobs, Meta Group Inc. senior research analyst: enterprise applications, says business success depends heavily on being responsive to change. Jacobs states that more and more companies were now either implementing a mobile worker component into their workforces or considering it. He says these companies had moved their ICT spend on innovative initiatives to between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of their overall investment, in contrast to the five percent that local companies generally spent here.

Decisions around ICT spend were now increasingly being made by business representatives rather than ICT professionals, he adds, which was proving problematic for the many vendors who had yet to adapt their sales approaches to accommodate this trend.

Discussing the rationale behind software process improvement, Old Mutual business process engineer, Marius Smit, says ICT professionals were still struggling to show the value proposition here due to ineffective communication.

“About 60 per cent of companies operate with really long lead times,” he says, adding that those which had software process improvement initiatives in place were getting their offerings to market much quicker than those who did not. These initiatives also enabled companies to reduce their ICT total cost of ownership, boost productivity levels and deliver higher quality products, services and solutions, concludes Smit.

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