South Africa’s IT professionals’ body, the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), has called for greater IT industry involvement and innovation in driving inclusive Fourth Industrial Revolution progress in Africa.

At the IITPSA annual general meeting, the Institute emphasised the increasingly important role the IT profession plays in development and economic growth, and called on IT professionals to become more involved in driving change and innovation in the country.

Teddy Daka, group CEO of Etion and IT Personality of the Year 2018, told the AGM that the IT sector needed to assess whether Industry 4.0 would truly benefit all South Africans and create much-needed employment in the country.

“Compared to the north, the south really hasn’t benefited from the first, second and third industrial revolutions, and the question is will we benefit from the fourth?” he said.

Noting predictions that millions of people were likely to be displaced from their jobs by 4IR technologies, Daka said. “Even if we are able to fast track the training of these people, I’m not sure this will solve all our challenges.

“Most training of IT professionals has been on the consumption side of what we do – most of them work for vendors or in local companies which are predominantly value added resellers. Unfortunately this won’t help us create jobs – we aren’t training people to go beyond just being an IT professional.”

Daka highlighted South Africa’s significant trade deficit between imports and exports, saying: “The question is why are we so dependent on imports when we have people who are able to do the kind of work that will allow us to grow our businesses and participate better in Industry 4.0?  We as IT professionals need to think differently about how we participate and the spaces in which we can become innovators, not just consumers of ICTs.

Investing in IT professionals for innovative tech

Giving people infrastructure and broadband access is good, but we are still just producing consumers of ICTs, which will exacerbate the deficit between our imports and exports.  We need to invest in IT professionals who can build technologies and come up with innovations.  We need to have our own Silicon Valley-type IT professionals – hardcore IT professionals and engineers who have made it beyond simply providing services.”

He also urged IT professionals to become more involved in policy development in key issues, such as cyber-crime. “We have a serious problem in cyber security – and it’s IT professionals who are now becoming our defence force.

“We need to develop more solutions that are more inclusive and create growth that is equitable – we are the people who create these new technologies. It is in our hands as IT professionals to make a difference,” he said.

IITPSA CEO Tony Parry noted that the industry was now under pressure to drive innovation faster, build adequate skills pipelines and help grow the economy. “By becoming more actively involved in industry programmes and skills and policy development, IITPSA members can collectively drive the progress we hope to see in South Africa,” he said.

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