The latest World Economic Forum “The Global Information Technology Report” (2012) places South Africa in 71st position along with Colombia.
As a country ranked in the top 25 in terms of GDP South Africa clearly lacks the will to improve the technology infrastructure. This is a brave statement, so why make it?
Technology infrastructure accessibility has been shown to bring competitive benefits to the economy and open up new economies for workers traditionally excluded from mainstream economic activity. As an example, to build a competitive call centre industry in an economy requires access to affordable labour and reduced IT costs. Telecommunications and the infrastructure associated for this at a cheap price is key to this success. South Africa lacks both.
Addressing poverty by opening the economy to more people requires the will on the part of the government to make it happen. This is not only related to the technology industries but all industries. With technology, business and consumers are acutely aware of this though. With poor infrastructure and a national carrier protected by the government the ability for businesses to compete on a global stage is hampered. Is this reality though? In Mozambique, a country further down the ranking than South Africa with a massive expansion programme, a 4mb ADSL line costs the equivalent of (USD 118) R920 per month. The equivalent offering in South Africa is 3 times that price. In addition, IT labour costs are at least 30% cheaper in Mozambique than they are in South Africa. Sure Mozambique is a smaller economy but building a services business that relies on new technologies specifically linked to technologies such as cloud or mobile where the technology can be housed anywhere, makes you wonder how long it will be before businesses in South Africa move more services off-shore. South Africa has already shifted technical skills to the Asian sub-continent primarily due to the lack of adequate training in South Africa, highlighting even further the lack of government desire to truly sort this problem out.
This is of course an opinion, but as a business we experience poor service and inadequae support all the time. We have regular telecommunications outages, so much so that we are now required to use two suppliers to ensure we have a back-up service available.
It is difficult to see how small tech businesses in South Africa can build a global footprint and compete internationally when the key to the industry is so poor.
To see the full report – http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-information-technology-report-2012.
Mike Backeberg – April 2012