"Local South African tech initiatives have not advanced with global tech development – things need to change." argues Adrian Schofield, has conducted applied research for the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering and is currently serving as a Board member of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA) and the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3).
|Photo: IDG Connect|
It can be tough to understand the politics of a country, even if you have lived there for most of your life. We are brought up to have expectations of our political leaders – expectations born of our knowledge of history, our political education and the means by which they became leaders. Was it a revolution? Was it an election? Was it hereditary? Is the leadership focused on one person or is it a collective? Were promises made? Were promises broken? Will they be seduced by the corruptive influences of holding power?
Whether we like the leadership style or not, it is in the nature of human communities that we try to get on with our lives – to “make the best of it”. Even when we are confused or angered by the sometimes illogical, sometimes illegal, decisions of the leaders. Even when we suffer directly from the consequences of tolerating bad leadership. Many long-established democracies are balanced on a knife-edge, where a small proportion of the voting population decides the political flavour of the majority party at each election – a decision that may alienate almost half of the affected citizens. In a stable society, the subtle shift does not “rock the boat” but in more volatile communities, the shift can have devastating consequences.
Every so often, a change of leadership becomes disruptive. South Africa has had several such disruptions – the election of President Nelson Mandela being one of the most famous. More recently, for the third time in just over a year, South Africa has changed its Finance Minister, with the latest appointment of Malusi Gigaba to hold the country’s purse strings being accompanied by several other changes in the Cabinet.
How is this relevant to the ICT sector? Prior to 2014, South Africa had a Department of Communications (DoC) responsible for ICT policy, including telecommunications, broadcasting, postal services and related matters...
What else happened in those five years? Self-driving cars, Uber, LTE-Advanced, Cloud computing, Netflix, Bitcoin, fibre-to-the-home. Technology advanced apace, creating massive opportunities for people worldwide to benefit from innovation. Some local initiatives did not advance – digital migration in South Africa has stalled way beyond the 2015 deadline, the SA Connect broadband rollout has not passed the pilot stage. The description may be a little simplistic but it adds up to an era when the outside world was adopting new technologies as fast as possible but the policy about its adoption in South Africa was marking time. At the end of it, a Cabinet re-shuffle that saw Dr Cwele stay in post at DTPS and his Deputy replaced by Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, returning to the more technology focused portfolio from her stint at DoC. The outgoing good Professor was promoted to Minister of Home Affairs, whose Minister Gigaba took over at Finance.
Source: IDG Connect