Every organisation has faced the tough task of finding suitable skills. In South Africa, this skills gap is juxtaposed by a high unemployment rate, especially amongst the youth. This is an imbalance which shows the lack of skills development amongst the young available workforce in the past. Unlike other countries, we have the available people but still lack the necessary skills.
Industry analysts have pointed to the Oxford Economics Workforce 2020 study, commissioned by SAP, which reflects an irony – while there is a substantial amount of technology in the workplace, there are not enough skills to use these resources to their maximum advantage.
Every suburb you drive through, you will note new infrastructure being installed – upgraded ADSL and communication systems, more cellphone masts being erected and improved internet connections between South Africa and the world. Although some may argue that the pace of change is still too slow, the infrastructure that is being put in place will enable our business and economy to grow (even if at a slower than optimal rate). Yet, even now, we face a serious lack of skills in terms of implementing and utilizing this technology – imagine when we have access to even more upgraded services.
According to the ITU almost 20% of Africa’s population had access to the internet by the end of 2014, up from 10% in 2010. It is far from full penetration and the challenge is to ensure that communities are given the skills they need to use ICT effectively.
This digital divide is likely to grow, leaving even more young people unable to find jobs in businesses largely dependent on technology to operate effectively. It shows especially during loadshedding when so many businesses shut their doors because they simply cannot do business without power – manual systems are largely obsolete.
It is the reason why the implementation of tablets in township schools has the potential to change the situation for at least some young people. There are naturally going to be some drawbacks and issues with the implementation but, without ensuring that as many South Africans are comfortable with technology, can cross the digital divide, our skills pools will remain empty.
Organisations also need to ensure that their employees have the capability to fully utilize the available technologies. Having software in place will not ensure that staff use it optimally. Implementing new systems and streamlining processes often involves moving to a more digital environment – how comfortable are your employees with these changes? Or are they still making paper backups to all the digital files because they don’t trust the new systems?
Collaboration and innovation can also be enhanced through technology but the 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Report, indicated that South Africa’s ranking had dropped with the major contributors to the drop are declines in the following areas: market efficiency for goods and services; financial market development; technological readiness; Innovation.
Does your organisation only offer courses on how to use the technology or does it go beyond that to ensure that employees can introduce new technological solutions to current problems and fully embrace a digital world?