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How wider broadband access can help businesses solve their recruitment issues

By , CTO, Euphoria Telecom
06 Mar 2024
Nic Laschinger, CTO, Euphoria Telecom.
Nic Laschinger, CTO, Euphoria Telecom.

Investments in infrastructure and more spectrum availability have made it cheaper and easier for operators to roll out mobile broadband networks in both urban and rural areas. Aside from the data cost savings, this presents businesses with a number of opportunities when it comes to hiring people and developing and retaining skills.

During his State of the Nation Address earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed how spectrum auctions had a significant impact on the price and availability of internet access across South Africa. Today, only 21% of South Africans do not have access to the internet.

While Census 2022 data shows that only about 13.3% of South Africans have a home broadband connection, the impact of widespread, stable internet connections for South African businesses impacted by skills shortages and young people developing their skills, cannot be underestimated. Here are three ways that widespread broadband connectivity can contribute to solving hiring issues.

1. Retaining skills

At around the same time that “work from home” became a buzzword, “semigration” entered the lexicon. Driven by the ability to work from anywhere, people started to explore moves to other provinces or to smaller towns, in search of better opportunities, better services, or lower living costs. Real estate data shows that this is still a significant trend in South Africa and businesses should be considering how it impacts them.

Cloud-based infrastructure means that people who choose to semigrate, along with their skills and institutional knowledge, need not be lost to businesses. So if a Gauteng resident doing a job that does not require them to be on site, decides to make a move to Mossel Bay, there is no reason that the company they work for couldn’t retain them.

2. Advancing skills

The “homework gap” is a phenomenon that refers to the difficulty students have in completing homework and academic assignments, without access to reliable internet at home.

Studies conducted around the world have found a relationship between the homework gap and educational outcomes and future success in higher education. The expansion of internet access, particularly into previously unserved and low income communities in South Africa, is therefore critical, and will have a significant impact on educational outcomes. And while businesses may not benefit from this immediately, in the long term, it will go a long way towards addressing South Africa’s skills shortages, especially in STEM fields.

3. The skills pool is bigger

Technology like cloud computing allows people to access corporate business systems remotely and securely. For example, a business with a cloud-based telephony system does not require people to be in the office to make or take calls. Employees can log into their extension from their laptops, use an IP handset, or download an app on their mobile phones to make ‘landline to landline’ calls. Combined with cloud-based productivity tools that allow access and sharing of documents and data, collaboration and meetings, this means that people can work without ever needing to be in the same space.

Increased and improved broadband coverage coupled with work from home practices means that companies can expand the pool of candidates when recruiting. Businesses are no longer tied to a geographic location when hiring, allowing them to find the skills just about anywhere as small towns, rural areas and townships come online.

South Africa’s skill shortages pose a serious problem for businesses, but access to affordable, stable and reliable internet outside of big cities will go a long way towards widening the pool of available candidates, retaining skilled people and developing the skills pipeline for the future. There is still work to be done until we get there, but the investment will be worth it in the long run.

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