South Africa - Computer skills in short supply


Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says “ICT-illiterate” senior managers are obstacles to the best use of information and computer technology (ICT) in the civil service.

She says such circumstances, coupled with unmanaged service providers and consultants, lead to the government buying “solutions for imaginary problems, while leaving out real problems which include responsive solutions that enhance and remove challenges of poverty”. She says for government to overcome this, the main challenge is its ability to “insert the technology into our everyday performance”.

Sisulu was speaking during the official opening of the seventh GovTech conference, South Africa’s top public sector ICT knowledge-sharing and learning event, which is being held at Durban’s International Convention Centre until tomorrow.

“ICT-illiterate senior managers are obstacles to the optimum use of ICTs, while at the same time unmanaged whizzkids can lead us down a path of fruitless expenditure and lack of empowerment of the same civil servants,” said Sisulu.

She added that in order for the goverment to improve its national rating as a user of ICT, it needed to partner with companies that could offer students internships and outreach programmes with schools, tertiary institutions and community-based organisations.

“I am convinced we cannot rest until there is universal access in public schools and a pool of ICT-competent children, or else what we discuss here is superficial, to say the least. We must cover the basics and provide opportunities in the ICT value chain, lest we entrench inequalities in the next generations,” said Sisulu.

“The old model of ICT and e-government is that we work and produce services that are designed and structured around the needs of the rich. The new way is that technology and services must be designed and adapted to fit the needs of the poor. We must conduct our business to reflect a new social consciousness and commitment to nation-building and development.

Asher Bohbot, the CEO of EOH, a listed business and IT solutions provider, has challenged JSE-listed companies to help create jobs instead of looking at government to do so.

Bohbot says JSE companies are sitting on a cash pile of about R666bn that could be used to create job opportunities for the 5 million able-bodied but unemployed South Africans.

“If every JSE-listed company took 10% of that money and invested it by offering learnerships and other minor things, unemployement would be history.

“In South Africa, business must have a much broader role, which must include the wellbeing of our society. The interesting thing is that this kind of thinking is not in conflict with shareholder interest. It is harder to run a successful business in a failing society,” said Bohbot while addressing Govtech delegates during a gala dinner.