The Harambee Mapping of Digital and ICT Roles and Demand for South Africa Survey provides pertinent insights into key challenges and opportunities in the skills ecosystem. It is clear that, despite the global recession, the digital economy continues to grow and requires digital and ICT skills to fuel its requirements.

The in demand job roles, functions, competencies and certifications required to bolster these current and future skills requirements have been plotted and mapped at a granular level in this report. Conventional areas of ICT that include software development, cloud solutions, systems development or engineering, database management, network management and IT architecture are earmarked for further growth and investment to provide the foundational technologies required for the next wave of computing. This next wave of cyber-physical systems, which includes robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, biotech, IoT, nanotech and quantum computing, are in rapid growth and require future skills that are particularly scarce in the country. In addition, the tech giants and solution providers are enabling enterprises and end-users to deploy elements of this business-critical technology with certified skill-sets that support these solutions.

Importantly, this survey enables various stakeholders in the skills ecosystem to see the benefits of providing unemployed youth with relevant skills and job pathways to quickly and efficiently bridge them into future workforces. Young South Africans must be readied, trained, tooled and given life-long learning and career opportunities that enable them to contribute significantly to the economic growth and development of South Africa’s digital economy. The detailed mapping of roles will assist all partners within the skills ecosystem to play their role to enable and empower all South Africans, inclusively, to develop these skills, apply this talent locally, and harvest and export the innovative inventions, products and services they create to trade internationally. As the survey notes, this can be done in cost-effective and inclusive ways; not necessarily relying on traditional methods of hiring and training. Notably, employers need to be realistic and open-minded to hire problem-solvers and creative thinkers along with the qualified tech-heads and logical thinkers. This will require that they place more focus on their attributes, aptitude, cognitive abilities and emotional intelligence as opposed to degrees, diplomas and unrealistic functions or expectations for job roles. In addition, public-private partnerships are required to build digital simulation academies that provide focused experiential learning for high demand roles and address unemployment with sustainable talent/skills pipelines.

Using this evidence base, government and other stakeholder partners, could realign much-needed digital and ICT skills to be more demand-led across the skills ecosystem, with the help of digital intermediaries such as BPESA, IITPSA, the Digital Council and the PPGI. This response should include a skills architecture that recognises vendor specific certifications, life-long learning and microcredentialing. Such an architecture should include financing solutions that assist unemployed youth with the high costs of training, certification and right-skilling. In addition, it would need to continually size the demand requirements of employers, and the industry at large, and link training and skills pipelines to these needs. Financial and non-financial incentives are also required to boost South Africa’s share of globally-traded ICT services while also enabling digital work to be reshored back to the country. Therefore, this survey, and the evidence base it provides, points to the need for an industry led action plan that includes incentives to reshore work back to South Africa, realign the skills ecosystem to become demand-led, and capture more global digital and ICT offshoring opportunities.