Adrian Schofield, the JCSE’s manager of applied research and author of the report, said that South Africa is falling behind countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt who place greater emphasis on the contribution of technology to economic growth.
“There remains a significant lack of improvement in South Africa’s basic education as well as exposure to and familiarity with ICT. Learners need a better understanding of the ICT sector to equip themselves to adapt to the modern tools used in everyday lives,” he said.
According to the 2014 JCSE ICT Skills survey, there has been mixed signals in the ICT skills environment.
“On one hand, the size of the global IT market will reach almost US$ 4 trillion in 2015, which is an impressive four-fold increase in the last 15 years, but global giant Microsoft is reducing its workforce by 18,000 (20%),” explained Schofield.
Also, the latest trends in technology adoption highlights the importance of cloud, big data, mobile, security and the Internet of Things while software, network infrastructure, information security, application development and business intelligence remain top priorities.
“While these new and emerging technologies create strong demand for certain skill sets, they reshape others and it often results in many employees becoming redundant.”
He explained that despite Africa being perceived as an emerging economy with immense growth opportunities, South Africa has fallen behind due to factors such as a limited number of graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and failed technology projects implemented by government.
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE, added that the problem should not be underestimated.
“There are two-and-a-half times more youth unemployed than adults in South Africa, and 60 per cent in total on the continent. We are at risk of losing an entire generation if vital steps are not taken,” he said.
“Digital technology provides a good route to absorb some of the youth unemployment. There are several ways in which this can be done throughout schools, universities and internships.”
Dwolatzky said that South Africa’s National Development Plan, for instance, cannot be achieved without the contribution of an effective ICT sector.
“We have to achieve a paradigm shift to overcome the appalling fact that approximately 10 per cent of students who enter the basic education process in South Africa achieve a pass in math or science subjects even with the low 30 per cent pass mark hurdle,” he explained.
“There is a vital need for improvements in the basic education system, from improved teacher skills to embedding technology across all schools, if we are to create future generations of “tech savvy” young people who can use, adapt and improve on the technology of the day."
Without that talent pool, he explained that South Africa will always be dependent on the products and services developed outside its borders compared to if that talent pool existed, innovation and entrepreneurship would be fostered to fuel an improved economic and social outlook.