Technology: Sowing the seeds for a better tomorrow – Part I Technology: Sowing the seeds for a better tomorrow – Part I
We take a look at just some of the reasons the South African tech landscape is in a very good place. Technology: Sowing the seeds for a better tomorrow – Part I

Should you spend a lot of time following the news, you’re probably not feeling too good about, well, anything. Day-to-day scandals; stories of corruption; gross mismanagement of state-owned-entities; corporate malfeasance; the list of reasons that justify a negative outlook is distressingly long.

But if you only focus on the negative, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice: if you look closer, and you break free of social media negativity and news reports throwing bad news at you 24/7, you’ll see that things are actually pretty good right now.

Part of the reason for this can be found in happenings within South Africa’s tech landscape; as you’ll see, tech has built a very firm foundation on which to base real hope in a better tomorrow for all South Africans.

Local datacentres opening

Microsoft, Amazon, and Huawei have all indicated interest in opening datacentres in South Africa that support each company’s cloud offerings. One of these will open in 2019, with the others coming later.

These datacentres will give South African companies access to low-latency cloud services and keep all data stored within the country’s borders, in line with legislation like POPI and GDPR.

Microsoft is the closest of these to launching theirs, with two datacentres in Johannesburg and Cape Town slated to open sometime in the first quarter of 2019.

Amazon is aiming to have its own Amazon Web Services datacentre open in Cape Town sometime in 2020.

Huawei hasn’t given a date for theirs, however the company has indicated that it will be aiming “…to create a cloud region in South Africa…” from which it plans to launch further cloud services into the African region.

Why is any of this important? Firstly, it will encourage the adoption of cloud services in companies across South Africa, as the reasons not to get on the cloud bandwagon, fade  away. With local datacentres, high latency to overseas servers and the absence of data sovereignty are replaced with ultra-responsiveness and legislative compliance.

Cloud services are a known driver of digital transformation, which in turn leads to improved profitability thanks to lower business overheads and higher productivity. Widespread adoption should see more companies contributing meaningfully to the country’s GDP as their turnover and profits improve as a direct result of cloud adoption.

Secondly, these datacentres will allow cloud pricing to stabilise as services can be charged at a Rand value that’s not tied to the fluctuation of foreign currency values – another reason local adoption has been more of a trickle than a flood.

Third, it will support the rapid deployment and growth of local startups, which have the potential to take on established businesses with more agile services tailored to customers’ specific needs.

The arrival of these datacentres will most certainly spur on local businesses to do more while paying less, inspire innovation due to easy access to superior services and tools, and thus dramatically impact on South Africa’s tech, business, and channel landscapes for the better.

Faster and cheaper connectivity

Of course, local datacentres wouldn’t mean a lot if the country isn’t  also getting better internet connectivity. This is happening thanks to the efforts of the big network players in the country, who are building cutting-edge networks that are connecting more people and businesses than ever to the wider internet.

South Africa rose four places in the 2018 “Speed League” report from Cable.co.uk, from 80th to 76th, which ranks countries by their average download speed. While we’re still below the global average of 9.1Mbps, we still managed a respectable 6.38Mbps – an improvement of 2% over our 2017 performance.

The improvements we’re seeing are directly due to the massive rollouts of new fibre networks and the upgrading of our cellular networks. These are not only improving our average download speeds, they’re bringing fast and affordable internet connectivity – and thus improved opportunities – to more areas and businesses.

In 2019, it’s now possible to have a 100Mbps fibre connection to your premises for less than R1500 a month. And while business connections remain more expensive than those aimed at homes due to how they prioritise traffic, even these are more affordable than ever: a 100Mbps business-grade connection with no limits on how much data can be downloaded costs less than R5000 a month now.

These affordable prices encourage businesses to make use of cloud-based technologies to drive their growth.

Most importantly for the local IT channel, they also allow resellers to sell more cloud services to their customers, thereby transitioning their business models from transactional to annuity-based.

Training initiatives

There’s a lot of talk about the skills gap that exists in the local IT sector, and it’s not all pie in the sky: South Africa does indeed have over 100,000 IT jobs that companies are struggling to fill because there just aren’t enough people with the necessary skills.

But this is being actively addressed by a large number of organisations that are coming together to build accessible education initiatives. They are opening the IT field up to all South Africans and reducing – or eliminating entirely – the cost to participate.

WeThinkCode is one of these, an organisation that helps students from all backgrounds get to grips with the core concepts behind programming, one of the most in-demand skills the country needs. It’s available for free, and all interested students can apply on the WeThinkCode website. Best of all no Matric certificate or work experience is needed to qualify to apply.

WeThinkCode itself is also part of another initiative called The Digital Skills Partnerships, launched in October 2018. They join other organisations like Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator; Cape Innovation & Technology Initiative (CiTi); Explore Data Science Academy, the Tshimologong Precinct Digital Skills Academy; and the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at WITS University in pledging to equip 5000 young people with digital skills through intensive and effective training.

Key to the initiative is its commitment to developing pathways to employment that don’t require a university degree, as well as finding new ways to finance its activities such that they aren’t prohibitively expensive for South African youth to take advantage of.

Microsoft, too, has a skills-incubation programme. It’s called Microsoft4Afrika, and it offers people without an IT background or work experience exposure to the tech world through cutting-edge technology-based teaching methods. Ultimately the programme aims to impart the kind of IT skills that equip graduates for today’s job market.

This is just a small sampling of the many training initiatives currently underway in South Africa that will contribute significantly to a more IT-savvy worker pool and reduce the number of unfillable IT jobs over time.

As has always been the case, hope for the future is rooted in education. And because South Africa is making significant strides towards making IT education accessible to all, the future looks bright.

To be continued…

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