Wellington Matope – Presidential Address at the 2014 IITPSA President’s Awards

Johannesburg – 06 November 2014

Well, good morning everybody. It is an honour to be with so many colleagues and friends who are passionate about IT.

I am going to begin by thanking all our partners, IITPSA staff and members for organising and supporting a fantastic event like this – year in year out and praise be to God for bringing us here together, today.

I would also like to acknowledge the presence of:

  • All our VIPs
  • All the distinguished guests who’ve travelled long distances to be part of this event
  • Last but not least, my dear wife and friend – Faith, who is here present today.

I must also thank Rabelani for his servant leadership during the last 2 years; we are very grateful for that Mr Dagada and please be assured that we will build onto yours and all the other presidents’ legacy.

On that note, please allow be to brag – we, at IITPSA pride ourselves for being one of the few organisations that changes leadership so often and still manages to retain all the past presidents in active roles, this is because we are passionate about the ICT industry!

Ladies and gentlemen, we meet here today as ICT practitioners and interested parties at a time our country has just been ranked #146 out of 148! by the Global Technology report. There has been a lot of debate around who gave input and which constituency they represent. I choose to take the report as an opportunity for us to improve who we are, what we do and how we do it.

In addition to that raking here are some additional “numbers”:

  • BSA IT Competitiveness Report:
    • 2009 – 43th Country out of 66
    • 2011 – 47th Country out of 66
  • Business monitor released the following headline expenditures for South Africa in May 2014:
    • Computer hardware sales: ZAR36.30bn in 2013 to 34bn in 2014, up 5.6%
    • Software sales: ZAR22.63bn in 2013 to 21bn in 2014, up 7%
    • IT services sales: ZAR35.36bn in 2013 to 34bn in 2014,
    • Giving us a total of 89bn
  • According to Gartner:
    • “IT spending is up 2.1% globally; Africa more than twice that.
    • Global IT services market will hit $1 trillion in 2015, and half of IT services spend will be outside of IT. Today that is 38% globally – in South Africa it’s 45% today”
    • If this is not worth national attention then I don’t know what should be.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we look at things globally my favourite case study will be none other than Costa Rica. This is a country whose economy was almost 100% agrarian in 1995, driven by Bananas, Coffee, raw sugar, fruit juices, cassava, non-knit suits, under garments, little bit of jewellery and a few electric heaters.

Fast track to 2010, good political decisions, good policies and investment choices saw giants like Intel setting up manufacturing plants in that country and from that time the economy is now largely ICT driven with Integrated circuits, office machine parts, medical instruments and orthopaedic appliances now driving the economy, agriculture still plays a major role by the way.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are many countries that South Africa could learn from; Costa Rica is my chosen country due to the similarities between the 2 countries. We, ICT practitioners need to inform and inspire our government into action. If we do not lobby the government, who will? If we don’t do the maths, who will? These are not ANC, DA or EFF matters; we need to provide the detail that will inspire these politicians into doing the right things for the future of this great nation.

If South Africa is the economic hub of this continent which country is the IT hub? Which one is the Costa Rica of Africa?

So how do we get there?

  • With all the minerals in Africa and Southern Africa in particular, are we an attractive investment destination for the ICT multinational companies wishing to do business in Africa? These investments do not just happen naturally or by luck, in Costa Rica these were like projects. Political leaders and industry expects proactively approached international giants like Intel to understand what would drive them to invest in their country and appropriate policies were put in place and the rest is now history that we are all learning from. We may have our priorities now and again but surely we can’t be missing all the opportunities in this sector, at the time?
  • Collaboration between industry, academia and politicians need to be improved. The Americans have the American dream. You and I know that American presidency revolves around it and if you don’t subscribe to that dream don’t even bother trying. When are we going to go beyond politicking and create a legacy for our children and grandchildren? When are we going to get these 3 sectors acting like a well-oiled machine, where research results in policies, products and industry growth? Do we not dream? If we do, What is the South African dream???
  • We need to identify how capabilities in our industry can be improved. The IT industry is one of the easiest industries to enter- very minimum regulations, no qualifications required, interestingly with some university drop outs becoming some of the richest people in the world.

Although the more the merrier, this sometimes tend to result in a mixed bag of results and we , at IITPSA are calling for the government to perhaps consider appointing IITPSA as a statutory body that partners with the politicians, industry and academia in protecting and growing this industry. Year in and year out the statisticians are telling us more than 60% of all projects fail?

Have you considered the monetary value of these projects and initiatives? You may not worry about the loss because it’s a private sector company next door but have you ever considered all those government failed ICT projects that costed you and I hundreds of millions of Rands?  hat about Accidents that have been caused by IT failures in the mining industry, cars that have been recalled due to IT failures?.

Malpractice in banking, Legal and health sectors will get you into trouble, sometimes so serious that you can be barred from practice, what about our industry?          Where is the accountability? We need to talk about these things so that we create controls that will hopefully result in improved capabilities and efficiencies. On that note, may I remind you of the R40M freeware developed website not so long ago in one of our provinces – If that is not a clear signal that we need to protect this industry from malpractice then I don’t know what will be.

To the men and women driving this industry I say we need to drive professionalism, professionalism and professionalism! At IITPSA we have come up with the career and skills development framework and blue prints that we want you, industry practitioners to consume. We visited you, you spoke, we listened and we have done our homework. We want to see common practices and standards in this industry – Standard job categories, levels and career progression paths and remuneration structures that will see people paid what they deserve to be paid not based on how good their negotiation skills are!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am however encouraged to see an increased adoption of new technologies by the private sector. Big Data is coming up and we have seen companies making big investments on data collection and utilisation.

There has also been good investments in Customer Relationship Management and although it feels intrusive sometimes, when it’s well-controlled there are many opportunities for growth, industry expansion and human empowerment.

The internet of things is seeing more and more devices connecting to the internet and improved human interaction and hopefully improved standard of living. According to ABI research we are going to see more than 40 Billion devices connected by 2020! In my books each of these devices is an economic opportunity for you and i.

I am also of the view that we should come-up with innovative ways of making these technologies available to the less privileged sections of our society. We do not want South Africa divided into first world, second world and third world. We do not want “they” and “them”, we need to move forward as an economy and as a society.

What we, however, also need to watch is security because the IT industry has grown so much that people are begging to predict that the next world war will be IT driven!   World War I (WWI) brought about chemical weapons, WWII saw an increased usage of Physics, Atomic Bombs, Radar and Jet Aircraft Technology and now it is predicted WW III   will be about who has the best technology, self-initiated and directed missiles, self-flying planes and one can imagine one country bringing the other down purely on technology.

According to a recent survey by the American based Ponemon Institute, the number of successful attacks on organisations more than doubled between 2010 and 2012 and the financial impact also shot up to around 40 percent. So, just because you have not detected an attack doesn’t mean you have not been attacked. The days of simple virus scans are over, cyber-crime is real and to some people it is now big business.

There are people out there that apparently call themselves “Hacktivists”. With these people attacks are not only for financial gains, if they do not agree with your organisation’s stance on certain things they bring all your systems down, disrupt your service offerings and damage your reputation.

Moving on to the most common one – Social media! Many of us here are senior managers, directors and executives of large corporates. We are active on many public platforms – Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc. We have uploaded loads of personal information on those platforms. Guess what, the cyber criminals also know that you hold strategic information about your organisation and that you also earn big monies. They are tracking you every day, one piece of information at a time and when the right time comes, they strike!

Let us talk about this aspect of our industry too and if you are involved in these things and you want to partner with IITPSA please let us know, I am sure we can put something together.

We have also seen an increased uptake and investment in Cloud computing. Local consumers are using international and/or local providers for the services. Although it would appear the benefits outweigh the costs, have we all read the fine print behind the service? Who owns the data once you sign up? If there is a legal case which court do you go to? Is the deal financially sustainable in the long run? When you move from one provider to the other, what happens to a copy of your old data? For how long? Confidentially?

Ladies and gentleman, we are not here to prophesy on doom but to rather look at IT in totality as the professionals that we are striving to be. The more we talk about these things the more the service structure is upped to another level.

Colleagues and friends, I also think it’s time we should also talk more about the social impact of IT. We have spoken about cyber crime, what about radiation? What is the impact of excessive cell phone usage? Are we doing enough research on these things?

Kids access to material they should not be accessing, like Pornography? Social ills? Resulting Crimes like rape? We are all investing in these smart phones and we can all afford internet access for our kids but does the ordinary man and woman have the skill to administer and control what the kids are accessing? Are we creating a new generation that has no boundaries?

I grew up going to the library because that was my only source of information; I have a teenage daughter who has never set foot into one. Aunts and uncles have been replaced by Google. What is the social impact of these things? Social workers, psychologist and other experts in this field should play an active role and start the necessary conversations that will hopefully result in policies and programs that will protect our social fabric.

In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, “IT” is now BIG business, lives are being changed, and some lives are now even driven by IT and we have seen economies grow. South Africans also sleep and dream. This is our time to create the one dream that should bring us all together and create a legacy for our kids and grandchildren. The Mandelas of this world started very small so can you and i. Let us make 2015 the year IT comes of age, the year Industry, Academia and Legislature join hands and start creating the South African dream. I urge you to Come and join us on this journey.

If we don’t meet, I wish you all a peaceful, restful festive season, a merry Christmas and a happy new year and I hope to see you next year. I thank you!