With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stating in a report in October this year that output in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to “expand by 6% in 2014″, academics and technology specialists have agreed that the projected growth will also fuel demand for skills.
The ICT skills shortage experienced internationally, including South Africa, has also increasingly been experienced by countries in Africa.
According to Professor Andre Calitz of the Department of Computing Sciences at The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), the ICT skills shortage estimates presently are between 20 000 and 70 000 in S.A. and over a million in the USA and Europe.
ITNewsAfrica has solicited the opinions of several operators, of varying levels, within the domestic ICT space to narrow down a list of the most sought-after tech skills and the relevant areas of discipline they are applied within business.
Software/ Mobile App Development
Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution says the use of business software, in any sector, has become an integral part of an organisation’s ability to perform tasks with a greater degree of efficiency, accuracy and ease. In fact, the most successful companies in every industry build their business processes around the functionality found in today’s software programs based on best-practice methodologies, industry standards and regulatory compliance he says. Demand for software developers will be driven by development for mobile and the surge in popularity of app, particularly as areas like mobile money expand. According to The Mobility 2014 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank, a tipping point in mobile apps use was reached in 2013, with more than half of urban cellphone users – 51% – now using these tools. The rural market, too is growing fast, with its 27% usage level surpassing the overall market of 18 months before.
Search Engine Optimisation
With the anticipated growth of ecommerce, especially in markets like Nigeria (consumers are expected to spend approximately $920 million in online purchases in 2014), competition to stand out on the Web will be fierce. As such the demand for those skilled in search engine optimisation will escalate as decision makers look to invest in what will likely be an immediate asset in businesses. Best practices and leveraging off tools to bolster online presence will differentiate in the market.
Software Quality Assurance (QA) testing
Those individuals who are responsible for testing systems, solutions or applications and are integral to the software development process. They are there to ensure that all processes and procedures agreed upon are adhered to – and that standards are maintained. With the expected emphasis on software development and how this can differentiate business, QA testers will be in demand.
The adoption and application of cloud computing remains a topic of discussion in the ICT industry. Analysts suggest that the demand, globally, for this skill sets has grown substantially to the point where demand has moved past supply – making cloud computing one of the more lucrative technology skills to possess in 2014. According to research study, Cloud in Africa: Reality Check 2013, released by World Wide Worx and Cisco, In 2013, 50% of South African medium and large businesses are using Cloud services; while a slightly lower proportion – 48% – are using the Cloud in Kenya. Nigeria lags behind, with only 36% of businesses currently using the Cloud. A significant 44% of Nigerian businesses say they will embrace the Cloud in the coming year, bringing the total in that country to 80% by the end of 2014. This compares to 24% of organisations in Kenya and only 16% in South Africa saying they will be taking up Cloud.
Software Systems Engineer
With the dominant position that software is expected to take in helping to shape communications infrastructures in business, it is little surprise that software engineers – those who are primarily tasked with the design, writing and testing of computer programs – will stand out in markets hungry for the very best technical skills.
Business Intelligence/ Analytics
Analytics and the ability to use data strategically, particularly in terms of predictive analytics for business, will influence business in 2014. The use of systems and tools to delve into data and add measurable value to operations will dominate commerce in the foreseeable future. This is the frontline of business intelligence and the transformation of raw data into practical useful information.
Help Desk/ technical support
As far as ICT service, solution development, integration and application is concerned, 2014 is anticipated to be the year for customer-centric strategies. To this end, the help desk or centre of information for customers about products/ services will emerge as a key area of growth and activity. Although the help desk and call centre environment is always recruiting, the need for skilled practitioners is expected to escalate in 2014.
From entry level right through to more advanced skills, qualifications such as routing and switching, as well as network security, administration and professional are all expected to be in demand next year. Networks will remain the lifeblood of organisations and experts in this space confirm that there will be a demand for a range of skills.
Mobile Device Management
Mobility is a reality for enterprise – whether decision makers like it or not. Given the advent of mobile devices in the workplace, the increase in usage by employees and significance of BYOD, industry analysts have pointed to the relevance of Mobile Device Management (MDM) strategy and application. According to a report by Juniper Research, by the year 2018 there is expected to be more than 1 billion employee-owned mobile devices in the enterprise. Technology executives have referred to an IDC statistic which claims that by the year 2020, third platform technologies (mobile, cloud, social and big data) will make up 80% of all IT spending compared with 20% in 2011. Having skilled personnel on board to apply strategy and skill to optimise the trend will be hugely beneficial to companies.
With the increasing relevance of BYOD, mobility and apps driving data management and strategy, the issue of access to information and security remains a key consideration for businesses. Skilled employees who can effectively manage the security strategies of businesses and guide decision makers in terms of compliance with legislation, safety and integrity of data will be sought after. Leading academics have emphasised the country’s risk profile when it comes to cyber fraud, citing a severe lack of skills to counter this problem.
* Image via Shutterstock
Chris Tredger – Online Editor