Relatively few South Africans consider careers in software development or information and communications technology (ICT) when leaving school.
There are a number of reasons for this, but first let’s look at why a career in software should, in fact, be given serious consideration by the country’s youth.
In 2014, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For survey revealed that four of the top 10 companies are in the software or broader technology space. In fact, the top two were both software companies.
In South Africa, Career Junction’s index from July 2015 shows the ICT industry has the highest job vacancy levels. The demand for people to fill vacant posts is more than double that of the engineering industry, which has the third highest demand level on the index.
In addition, according to Buzz South Africa, the highest paying job (on average) in South Africa in 2015 is that of a software engineer. Indeed, software engineers and developers are usually in the top 10 of any salary survey.
Finally, in the biggest worldwide developer survey — StackOverflow’s 2015 Developer Survey — around 70% of participants said that they were self-taught or trained on the job, indicating new levels of sustained value to employees presented by this field.
So, if ICT companies are usually good companies to work for, it’s relatively easy to find a job, an expensive and lengthy qualification is often not required and the pay is above average, why don’t South Africans want to follow this path?
The biggest reason is our backgrounds. A large percentage of South Africa’s population grew up without computers. However, this is changing — smart device ownership is increasing and hopefully we’ll see future generations take a greater interest in the software element of these devices.
To add to this, renewed focus and commitment by public and private sector organisations to work towards improving South Africa’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics schooling performance is expected to yield positive results, which will also play a large part in making the ICT field more accessible for young people.
There is also a perceived lack of “cool factor” around the industry. However, software development is one of the few white-collar industries where employees can have the gratification of building something from scratch. With software being a part of everything nowadays, software developers’ work is often showcased in the public eye. What could be cooler than that?
The ICT industry is the largest private sector employer in India. India has a population of more than a billion people, and has embraced an industry that barely existed there 20 years ago. This has made the nation one of the most powerful ICT forces globally, and demand for the country’s technology services has driven significant economic development. African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria are following suit.
In South Africa, the ICT market continues to expand, and the need for software professionals is clearly present. However, we just don’t have people with the right skills to be able to meet this demand and play on the world ICT stage. If India can use ICT to boost its economy, why can’t we, and why don’t we?
- Shashi Hansjee is CEO at Entelect
- Subscribe to TechCentral’s free daily newsletter