The Western Cape can become a global technological hub, and today the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism has launched a process to develop the skills to achieve this.
The Department hosted a workshop with trainers, educational institutions and employers in order to present research about the current state of digital skills in the province, identify opportunities and map the way forward for development.
A shared agenda and roadmap will now be developed for release in April 2019.
The target includes ensuring 80% internet penetration for citizens in the province and securing R10 billion in investments in the sector by 2030.
Speaking at the event, Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer said “We have set the ambitious goal for our province to become a leading, global digital hub. To do this we need to have the fundamental pillars of digital skills and competencies in place.”
“Changes are happening at lightning speed in the digital space, and in order to meet the needs of a hyper-connected global economy, and remain competitive, Western Cape businesses and individuals must keep pace. We cannot afford to be left behind. The impact on our competitiveness as a region and on jobs would be too great.”
The Western Cape is already home to a strong and developing tech sector, with a wide mix of tech start-ups and international giants like Amazon recently announcing a new data centre in the Western Cape.
The AS-IS research report examined various sectors in the Western Cape economy (breakdown provided below) in order to understand its digital readiness and skills requirements.
Minister Schäfer said: “As opportunities in the digital economy open up, and more investment is driven into the region, we need the skills to support this growth and amplify it. We also need to increase the ability of marginalized communities to participate in a digitally enabled world,” she said.
Retail and wholesale
The retail and wholesale sector plays a major role in the province’s economy, registering average annual growth of 2.6% between 2007 and 2016. Nearly a quarter of all South Africa’s jobs (21%) are created in this sector. South Africa currently has around 18.4 million e-commerce users, with this expected to grow by an additional 6.36 million by 2021.
According to the study, the sector will require skills in e-commerce management and planning, call centre agents, and software developers. However, as the sector becomes more digitised, significant upskilling and re-skilling of staff will be required in order to keep up with changes.
Business and financial services
This sector is the biggest employer in the province, adding 64% of the total jobs created in the Western Cape since 2011.
Cape Town made its debut on the World Financial Centres Index earlier this year at number 38, and overtook Johannesburg as the top financial centre in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Key skills required include data analytics, big data, cyber security, machine learning and cloud computing.
The study suggests that universities will not be able to adapt their modules to keep up with the fast paced changes in this field, and as such, a culture of innovation needs to be developed in order to keep up with skills needs.
Accelerators, incubators, boot camps and master classes would be ideally suited to keep skills in this area fresh.
The tourism sector is a major job creator. The study notes that only 22% of visitors to South Africa make use of traditional travel agencies in order to book their trips.
Online booking tools for flights, hotel reservations and other tourism attractions have changed the tourism landscape, and yet, the study found that few tour guide courses offer any kind of mobile technology training.
It notes that bigger international hotel chains will be able to keep up with changing digital needs, however, smaller and medium sized hospitality businesses must possess social media skills as these are key to marketing their businesses.
Animation, film and media, gaming
The Western Cape’s animation industry is small but well developed, while the film and media industry has shown good growth in recent years. These industries are technologically driven, and with the correct skills base, have the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth.
Key skills gaps identified include film and video editors, sound engineers, drone operators, game developers, and visual effects artists.