Opportunity is rife and innovation is everywhere. The refreshing aspect is that this innovation is not only changing businesses … it is transforming people and society. Today the Cloud and Internet of Everything represent milestones that demonstrate why technology is not an isolated resource, and why vendors are focused on the business and social relevance of their offerings. Despite challenges like the need for more people to enter the ICT market and add to the skills pool, Africa seems to be on an upward trajectory in terms of technology development and application.
Leon Wright, Chief Technology Officer at Cisco South Africa, believes as far as South Africa’s technology journey (and that of the rest of Africa to a degree) is concerned, the Country has reached a pinnacle point in which “the stars have aligned … we’ve got the bandwidth, we have the fibre in the ground. All these things have come together.”
The message from Wright, who deals daily with the intricacies of technology solution development and integration in business, is that the emphasis today is now on cohesion, on multi-functionality and on convergence of technology and the Cloud to improve customer experience.
“If there is one thing that we spend an immense amount of time and money on, it’s creating a friendly device,” he says. “It is not about the technology, not about the architecture… it is about achieving a user experience.”
Education is key
Wright refers to pervasive video as an example of the need to educate business and create awareness. “Having a tele-presence between you and me is one thing…and organisations right now are saying ‘we are seeing value in that, this is great’. But we look a year down the line and we say ‘yes it is great, but what about your people on the road…. How do we include them on the road, how do we pull them in on an iPad into an immersive tele-presence session and have the same kind of quality,’…”
The reality is that there is technology available that can facilitate anywhere, anytime connectivity and application.
Awareness of technology and application is one aspect of education in commerce, the other is availability of technical skills. The shortage of skill sets is one issue that keeps Wright up at night… however, he is confident of the level of effort that is being made by the industry to develop skills and assist in bringing them into the market.
“We are running over five hundred Net Academies and there are other initiatives… these excite young people about technology, about maths and science… this is what we need. We are building a lot of skills from school level all the way up and then we go into different programmes Global Talent Acceleration Program (GITA), in which we take them through an intense training programme and we seed skills back into the market,” says Wright.
However, with all that the Company is doing, Wright’s personal opinion is that the situation calls for acceleration and a lot more of it. “How do we take technology and use that to accelerate education, cause that is where we change countries…and that gets us excited. So, no, we don’t have enough and we need to accelerate it. The government is doing fantastic things in terms of driving broadband strategies and infrastructures. That excites us in terms of the investment that is taking place. You are going to see the ship turning around in terms of young talented individuals starting to engage the market. But, as we sit right now, it is a concern… when I am looking for talent, I am really battling.”
From an engineering point of view, the impact of this skills shortage is being felt across the board – from service provider segments all the way through to public sector, enterprise and commercial Wright continues.
Reinforcing the significance of fundamental technology shifts, Wright believes that the internet of things will radically change the way businesses work. “If we look at the internet of things, we divide it into people, people process, data and things…. These pillars are going to be impacted significantly.”
Why is it so exciting? According to Wright it is because there is so much data out there not being used, that the value of being able to access that info in real-time from today’s enabled devices is astounding.
He also believes that BYOD, Big Data, social media and the convergence of all of these as central to any business going forward.
“For example, there is a lot of medical devices being connected to the internet and the uses are fantastic… and security is very much part of our DNA, it is built in, not built on,” he adds.
Chris Tredger – Online Editor