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High demand for tech skills as African cities smarten up

High demand for tech skills as African cities smarten up

Multinational ICT vendors, businesses and government are collaborating to ensure more data scientists, software developers and cloud specialists enter Africa's IOT ecosystem and help cities to leverage intelligent systems and digitally transition to smart cities.

At AfricaCom 2018 in Cape Town this week, Steve App, CTO, OpenLab South Africa, said the facility is working closely with the tech training and innovation initiative Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to help nurture innovation around cloud and other key technologies including Artificial Intelligence.

"We have been presenting there and working to start getting entrepreneurs together ... so that is to help take them forward. It's a new initiative, I have presented cloud to them, and I saw that maybe some of the thinking and direction to go in needs to be slightly adjusted. They saw the cloud but were almost wanting to put in point solutions in the cloud rather than 'the cloud should give you access to a data link' ... and they were thinking about 'how do we build a cloud', rather than 'you don't build a cloud, you use it' .... we were saying 'try work out how to use existing data', because the vision of the cloud (is that) whatever data you collect should be available for anybody to use to provide the right services."

App said the budding entrepreneurs are receptive and the intention going forward is to demonstrate the kind of equipment that can be built, how they can interface and develop.

"There is another session planned which is focus on AI," he added. "It's a scarce skill. We need more data scientists and we need more artisans who can actually work with sensors, work with devices, put them in and understand them. We are in a catch between creation of talent versus the opportunities."

UNESCO partnership

This speaks to Huawei's view on core ICT skills availability. The company acknowledges there is a critical shortage of skilled ICT professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The company has partnered with UNESCO (the United Nations agency for Education, Science and Culture); African universities and industry players to launch an ICT Talent Ecosystem Program for the region.

As part of this programme, Huawei carries out several ICT certification programs including the Huawei ICT Academy and Huawei Authorised Learning Partner (HALP) for university students and industry practitioners, providing industry recognised certification HCNA, HCNP, HCIE, across extensive ICT technologies.

The company also organises events including an ICT Competition and career expos for tertiary students to promote a greater understanding of and interest in ICT related job opportunities.

"We are launching this platform to demonstrate that the young talent in Sub-Sahara Africa have the potential to mature into world-class experts. Today, we re-dedicate ourselves to working even more closely with partners across the continent to better equip the next generation of technology leaders. By enhancing industry-academic cooperation, we, as an international ICT Company, hope to make our contribution to achieving of the continent's development goals," said Michael Meng, Services Director of the Huawei Enterprise Business Group for Southern Africa Region.

These skills will become more sought-after as cities in Africa pursue opportunities linked to a mature IOT ecosystem and smart city development.

According to Huawei, they will underpin key factors associated with successful smart city construction including top leadership projects, strong execution teams, industry-leading digital partners, and solid investments.

Huawei believes the smart city concept is a critical phenomenon in urban development. The company likens the concept to a living organism that has a central nervous system and 'brain' and advocates a one cloud approach.

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