The University of Cape Town is taking another step in bridging the traditional divide between arts and commerce by introducing Information Systems (IS) as a major subject in the Humanities faculty.
Information Systems is offered as a major in UCT’s Commerce faculty, but will now also be offered to Humanities students studying subjects as diverse as linguistics, classical studies and history.
The course could lead to careers in everything from e-commerce and integrating social media into businesses to the development of applications, project management and gaming.
Many entrepreneurs are also tapping into the IS field. Companies such as Uber, AirBnB and retail e-commerce company, Alibaba, have been recent trailblazers. Information Systems is used in a wide range of sectors, such as market analysis, educational reform, economics, film and media and graphics and design.
Recruitment portals, such as Career Junction, show that more professional jobs are offered in the Information Technology (IT) sector in South Africa, than in any other.
“Information Technology (IT) is very much in demand. Our IS graduates are sought after and hold many important and challenging positions nationally and internationally,” says Head of the Information Systems Department, Associate Professor Kevin Johnston.
Former UCT Information Systems student, Katlego Maphai, who is making waves on South Africa’s entrepreneurial scene, sees information technology as one of the hottest careers of the future, with IS at UCT as a great springboard.
Maphai has developed and rolled out Yoco, a low-cost card reader and point of sale app which can be used with a mobile phone or tablet, to process card payments quickly and easily. He said he learnt valuable lessons at UCT, particularly during the third and fourth year of the IS course when students develop an end-to-end software solution for an external business.
“I learnt my greatest lessons about teamwork, planning, execution, problem-solving stakeholder management and being thorough during this part of the course,” says Maphai.
Shifting global trends are also cracking open the field of Information Systems.
“Companies are constantly confronted with new trends, such as cloud computing, and the use of social media, such as YouTube and Twitter. There’s this continuous newness, new technologies and challenges,” said Professor Irwin Brown, who lectures in the IS department.
IS students connect with companies and entrepreneurs while studying at UCT, learning from real world experience.
UCT IS Honours student, Jeronisha Chetty, says she considers the crossover between Humanities and Commerce as a natural fit.
“It’s all about integration in the workplace these days. Companies want people who are dynamic and have a wide skills set. You could combine the two very effectively.”
The IS Department, which is part of the Commerce faculty at UCT, offers a range of qualifications and courses accommodating students from 1st year to PhD levels. The undergraduate programme ties in with an internationally recognized IS curriculum, while postgraduate courses cater for both part-time and full-time students.