By Annisa Essack
The Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) says that skills shortages will be the single biggest challenge facing the South African information and communication technology (ICT) sector over the next ten years.
South Africa’s highly innovative and entrepreneurial ICT sector is on par with global counterparts, but the ICT brain-drain and slow ICT skills development are threatening the country’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) progress.
IITPSA nonexecutive director and Western Cape chapter chairperson Pearl Pasi says that the ICT sector presents opportunities for significant job creation and export opportunities in the decade ahead, with the opportunities for South Africa’s ICT sector outweighing most of its challenges.
With the rate of unemployment skyrocketing, the emerging 4IR sector brings a range of new business and career opportunities, with new careers that did not exist in the last decade being created.
The conundrum though is that to maintain jobs, employees need to be reskilled to keep pace with technological developments. This then means there is a need to nurture talent and keep it in the country, especially as ICT professionals are leaving South Africa, mostly owing to crime. Amid this, it is believed that not enough attention is being paid to ethics and soft skills.
Moira de Roche, IITPSA director and International Federation for Information Processing International Professional Practice Partnership chairperson explains that certain attributes and soft skills that are crucial for the 4IR tend to be overlooked in ICT skills development discussions. She believes that we need to look at technical skills development and focus on skills that will differentiate people from robots.
The teaching of these creativity, innovation, ethics and professional skills will be more challenging than the teaching of technical skills. More importantly, these skills will have to be embedded into every educational subject and adopted throughout the culture of organisations and the country.
The emergence of 4IR and its technologies are expected to create at least 160-million new jobs, whilst creating a wealth of opportunities for job creation and business growth in South Africa. We are already seeing the cloud creating jobs and innovators finding opportunities in areas like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and blockchain.
The 2020s could see significant opportunities for the ICT sector with the proper regulatory environment and training in place.