Why the ICT sector is vital for digital economy
Johannesburg – If there’s one thing that South African businesses have become acutely aware of in recent years it is the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) in growing their revenues.
In the past five years, we have seen significant innovations across business sectors – from major banks who offer a wide variety of digital services to small business owners who are marketing their products on social media.
Now fibre is also being rolled out to homes and businesses across the country. However, while there has been phenomenal progress in South Africa’s ICT sector, there are still several challenges that must be addressed to ensure that our digital economy continues to grow, according to David Rozzio managing director of HP South Africa and Africa.
The computer era, coupled with printing, has only increased in popularity since its inception. How to constantly reinvent technology in South Africa has become a subject of public debate, he says.
HP South Africa takes the view that ICT is a key enabler to impact education and within (private and public sector) businesses, to improve and instil new business agility, reach new channels, and improve what they are capable of, through infinite connection capabilities that contribute to digital transformation.
“Education in South Africa has the potential to harness conceivable technology. To some extent, they already are. In many schools, students already do the leg work outside the classroom – researching, reading up on a subject or practising skills in their own time before the lesson begins,” says Rozzio.
“This is the ‘flipped classroom’ in action – a blended learning that combines classroom teaching and online learning. And at school you have teachers – who can collaborate with students – engage them in group work with technology which mirrors the real world. That’s where the real magic happens.”
He says in South Africa, arguably this new way of learning aims to provide and make education more flexible, collaborative and dynamic and perhaps, a large portion of state schools are yet to reap the rewards. Though HP South Africa affirms that the biggest factor in successful use of technology is the support offered to teachers (not to make them feel as if they’re being replaced by PCs and tablets), some 60% of teachers say they’d like more support and training on how to integrate technology to their teaching.
“Teachers need to feel empowered and part of the decision-making process, and in doing so, need to feel they understand how to use technology as well as, or better, than the students,” says Rozzio.
“Some teachers are understandably wary of technology, while others are huge adopters. Some fear they’ll lose control, or that technology will be too great a distraction. But with the right tools and professional development – having teachers teach other teachers how to use it – is critical for success.”
He emphasises that technologies and services form a pivotal role in the race towards digital transformation, specifically, in computing, which has contributed significantly to the global digital economy. The digital economy refers to an economy based on digital computing technologies, or sometimes also referred to as the internet. It is intertwined with the traditional economy and can have widespread impact on a whole economy.
“With globalisation, the world has seen countries trade and spread knowledge across landscapes resulting in economic sectors having strong influence as result of the digital economy. Per MIT Sloan Research, companies that are adapting to a digital world are 26% more profitable than their industry peers. Companies like Blackberry, were unable to adapt to the shape shifting digital economy,” says Rozzio.
In South Africa, affordability and infrastructure are economic factors that are rated as showing signs of deterioration within the Network Readiness Index Report from the World Economic Forum Report of 2016. It is highlighted in the report that for South Africa to capitalise on venture capital investment in infrastructure there must be significant buy-in from government in the expansion of the ICT business environment – not only in word, but in action.
“As South Africa shifts towards digital trends it is proving to be the most important driver for innovation, competitiveness and growth. Moreover, it holds huge potential for radically changing business landscapes and shaping the nature of work. These trends spur innovation in business models, transfer of knowledge and networking capabilities,” says Rozzio.