The unemployment rate in South Africa is growing steadily with the latest figures reaching 27.7 percent in the second quarter of 2017. This is a sobering fact which has an impact on poverty and crime. Rural communities are probably most challenged as job opportunities in these areas are scarce and many individuals lack in education.
One such example of this is Hazyview, a central town in the Lowveld region of Mpumalanga, that has a population of about 8 million people of which at least 57% is unemployed. Job opportunities in the region are scarce, and those people who do have skills are often forced to seek employment in cities. Hazyview, like many other small and remote towns in South Africa, is bearing the brunt of being part of the “forgotten lot” where opportunities and services alike are only heard of but not seen or experienced.
Corporates need to rally together not only to drive skills development and educational projects in cities, but to also focus on the needs of people in rural areas and create sustainable jobs as a follow-through of these initiatives. The challenge that many corporates face with their CSI initiatives is that they struggle to find gainful employment for individuals once the skills have been acquired.
The decentralisation of service desks or even contact centres is an area that can benefit from these CSI initiatives, provided the right skills are transferred. If we consider the locations of service desks and contact centres, they are situated all over the world with places like India being attractive destinations. This gave rise to the ‘offshore is the nearshore’ trend that saw businesses outsourcing their call centres offshore. With the digital era seeing South Africa’s infrastructure continually improving and the exchange rate being favourable for international businesses that require contact centre functions, South Africa is becoming the new offshore. What is noteworthy is that these support desks or contact centres do not have to be located in business hubs. It is here that forgotten and impoverished towns come to mind. It is here that rural becomes the new nearshore. And it will not only be international businesses that benefit. Local businesses will also able to make use of these decentralised services whilst supporting communities in rural areas and contributing by creating employment opportunities.
We at T-Systems are very proud of our CSI initiative with the unemployed community of Hazyview. Five years ago, we partnered with the Good Work Foundation to establish the Hazyview Digital Learning Campus (HDLC) in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. It is a campus of excellence in rural Mpumalanga where young people can access training in IT skills to become positively contributing members of their communities. It provides critical skills such as IT, Tourism and English to communities from Hazyview and surrounding areas in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.
The project initially focused on people that have left the school system early or older individuals that have not completed or furthered their education due to lack of funds or other issues. It offered education programmes that ran in parallel to schooling systems along with providing practical skills.
However, it has matured to the point where we have skilled up a team of previously unemployed individuals that are now IT support resources, creating a Customer Interaction Centre (CIC). The Hazyview CIC services a number of clients, chief among them is T-Systems whose internal support request are rerouted to this remote service desk. The Hazyview CIC has proven to be able to offer up to 30% cost reduction compared to an urban or internal service whilst offering a world-class service and quality. On top of that it has provided ICT skills and jobs to people who would not have had the opportunity.
As tough economic conditions continue to test the country, as companies are forced to reevaluate their spending while thinking about how they can be good corporate citizens and help tackle challenges facing the so-called forgotten communities. There are significant opportunities that lie in outsourcing service desks and contact centres, to the rural nearshore, that can greatly assist to provide skills and accelerate job creation.
T-Systems will be showcasing their rural customer interaction centre at their upcoming ‘INTOUCH TECHNOLOGY 2017’ event, to be held on the 3rd of October 2017 in Johannesburg and on the 16th of October 2017 in Cape Town.
To secure an invite into INTOUCH TECHNOLOGY 2017 visit: www.un-outsource.co.za
By Sibusiso Shabangu, Head: Partner Management & End User Services, ICT Delivery at T-Systems South Africa.