There is an ongoing ICT skills gap in South Africa, which also sees the country fall behind its African peers in skills training, according to research by Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE).
According to the seventh annual JSCE Skills Survey, South Africa continues to fall behind other African countries in terms of ICT skills training, while the state of the local economy also sees investment and training by ICT sector clients cut back.
In addition, the research says there is a concerning lack of improvement in South Africa’s basic education, particularly involving ICT skills.
“Exposure to and familiarity with ICT for all learners is essential. 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 of learners,” says Adrian Schofield, the JCSE’s manager of applied research and author of the report.
According to Schofield, the emergence and adoption of new technologies will serve to decrease the use of human labour in white-collar roles and repetitive tasks; however, this will be accompanied by an increase in demand for specialised skills that create, implement and maintain these new technologies.
As such, he says there is an urgent need for heightened investment in ICT skills training.
“There is an immediate unsatisfied need for skills in the ICT sector that is only going to get worse in the medium and long term. Significant and sustained investment in education and training is required to have any hope of alleviating the skills gap,” Schofield says.
The research acknowledges a number of positive developments in South Africa’s ICT skills space, such as IBM opening its second Research Laboratory in Johannesburg; SAP’s success with Africa Code Week events; and Amazon’s expanding development centres.
However, the research says political and economic uncertainty are hindering progress, and the the report cites a failure to implement vital projects in South Africa’s ICT sector; such as the switch to digital terrestrial television services and the implementation of the national broadband network.
“Our view is that the ICT skills gap in South Africa is a reality that continues to haunt the country’s ability to lift its performance across all sectors to the level that will sustainably address the unacceptable burdens of poverty and unemployment,” says Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE.
The JSCE concludes with a call to stakeholders to work together to overcome challenges and address South Africa’s skills shortage, to unlock a creative and dynamic ICT sector capable of boosting the local economy.