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Issue Date: June 2007

Government support for software industry underwhelming

7 June 2007

CITI’s Software Engineering Colloquium received tremendous support from industry and academia. However, government representation was conspicuous by its absence. For this reason, CITI has produced a comprehensive feedback document which it has sent to all levels of government and is awaiting a written response.
The Colloquium was designed to elicit constructive solutions to the industry’s ongoing challenges and help local software development companies sell more product and service, both locally and internationally.
At the outset, CITI conducted a snap survey of local business to ascertain problems or pain points businesses were experiencing in terms of software development. The survey, conducted by Knowledge Crucible, raised some serious criticism about the current state of affairs in the local development industry.
The report pointed to a severe lack of appropriate skills, little government support and a perceived lack of academic relevance, all of which stirred up industry debate.
“We received an astonishing response to the findings of the report. Quotes from respondents referring to our software engineering graduates as intellectually lazy caused quite a buzz,” explains Viola Manuel, CITI executive director.
CITI invited delegates from industry, academia and government to the Colloquium to ensure collective solutions were found for industry challenges.
“Given the level of criticism levelled at academia in the report findings we were expecting academic representatives to be defensive. We were pleasantly surprised by the commitment and openness with which they approached the proceedings. We were, however, deeply concerned by the apathy of government. We had a representation from the City of Cape Town and briefly by Provincial Government, but despite multiple contacts, no-one from national government attended,” Manuel comments.
Because of this CITI has sent a report outlining possible solutions to nurture and grow the software industry, to the departments of Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Education and Communications all of whom where originally invited to attend.
Moreover, the report has been sent to opposition parties, civil society and NGOs.
“If government could not, for whatever reasons, attend the event, CITI would like them to respond to the document sent to them. If a common solution to growing this industry is to be found, it has to be a collective solution.
Government, industry and academia working in isolation and often at cross-purposes, is not helping this industry. In fact, if this situation continues we are at risk of losing further ground to our international counterparts,” says Manuel.
The most recent edition of the International Institute for Management Development's World Competitiveness Yearbook shows South Africa has fallen from position 38 in 2006 to 50 this year. Manuel says this countrywide trend will be echoed in the software industry if action is not taken.
CITI supports the goals of ASGISA and one of its key objectives is to grow the number of jobs in the IT sector. However, Manuel says that the opportunities for broader economic growth through the software development industry are enormous and cannot be overlooked by Government.
Manuel also points to the long-term and sustainable nature that high-tech job creation offers growing economies and says South Africa should be implementing 10- to 15-year plans in the same way as countries such as Brazil, Ireland and Israel have done.
“While the government has pointed to the BPO industry as a key way to create jobs, and we laud that, producing one competent software engineer will result in a multitude of supporting IT jobs. Research has also shown that for every job created in the IT sector, four additional jobs are created in the greater economy. You do not have to be an economist to see the benefits of growing the number of high-tech skills in this country,” Manuel concludes.
The full report as well as supporting documentation is available for public viewing at http://se07.citi.org.za.
For more information contact Viola Manuel, The Cape IT initiative (CITI), Viola.manuel@citi.org.za


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