CIO SA tech news round-up: Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) sues former global CEO for failure to disclose interest in SA BEE deal, Convergence Partners raises R5.1 billion, and Google experiments with new AI that turns text into music.


CIOs becoming changemakers

According to Foundry’s new research, the majority of CIOs believe their role is becoming more digital and innovative.

Foundry, the global leader in media, martech and data for the technology community, published its 22nd annual State of the CIO Report last week. The study examines how the CIO’s role has evolved over time, as well as conducting an in-depth examination of the technology and business initiatives that CIOs intend to prioritise in 2023.

According to Foundry’s report, the majority of CIOs (77 percent) believe their role has been elevated as a result of the state of the economy, and they expect this visibility within the organisation to continue.

“The CIO role is constantly evolving, and economic conditions have put a new level of pressure on these executives,” said Holly McWalter, marketing and research specialist at Foundry. “This year’s research showcases how this pressure trickles down to important decisions regarding priorities and budget, and provides insight into how CIOs are moving their business forward.”

The following are the key findings from this year’s State of the CIO Report:

According to Foundry’s research, despite the state of the economy, CIOs are optimistic about budgets for 2023. More than half (56 percent) expect a budget increase in 2023, 35 percent expect a budget freeze, and only nine percent expect a budget decrease. The need for security improvements (40 percent), the need to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure (38 percent), application modernisation (38 percent), investments in new skills and talent (36 percent), and product innovation (27 percent), are the top reasons for increased tech budgets in 2023.

The vast majority of CIOs (85 percent) believe their role is becoming more digital and innovative. CIOs strive to be business strategists in the next three years, focusing on driving business innovation, redesigning business processes, and modernising infrastructure and applications (28 percent).

Despite this, security is expected to play a significant role in their role, with 70 percent expecting their involvement in cybersecurity to increase over the next year, and slightly more than half (55 percent) expecting their involvement in data analysis, data privacy/compliance, and AI/machine learning to increase.

In 2023, the most significant business initiatives expected to drive IT investments are increasing operational efficiency (45 percent), increasing cybersecurity protections (44 percent), transforming existing business processes (38 percent), and improving customer experience (36 percent).

Security/risk management (38 percent), data/business analytics (34 percent), application/legacy system modernisation (28 percent), machine learning/AI (26 percent), and customer experience technologies (24 percent), are expected to be the most significant in driving IT investments in 2023.

Dimension Data parent company sues former CEO

NTT has sued its former global CEO Jason Goodall in the UK, alleging he had a hidden financial interest in a Johannesburg deal designed to boost the telecoms company’s Black Economic Empowerment rating.

According to the suit, Goodall approved the sale of NTT-owned Dimension Data’s sprawling headquarters in Johannesburg suburbs in 2019 for “significantly less” to a majority black women-owned fund, Identity Fund Managers, in which he had either already invested or had a plan in place to invest.

“Goodall and the other executives’ conduct in arranging and acquiring their interests in the Identity Fund and concealing and failing to disclose those interests amounts to gross misconduct involving dishonesty,” NTT’s lawyers said in the court filing.

NTT and Dimension Data confirmed that legal action was being taken in the UK and South Africa, but declined to comment further.

According to NTT and Dimension Data, Goodall’s “fraudulent misrepresentation” requires him to repay the $17.6 million (R296 million) he received as part of his retirement package in 2021.

Convergence Partners raises R5.1 Billion

Convergence Partners, led by ICT industry veteran Andile Ngcaba, has raised $296 million (R5.1 billion), exceeding its initial target by more than 18 percent, to promote digital inclusion throughout Africa.

Convergence Partners Digital Infrastructure Fund (CPDIF) raised the funds.

CPDIF’s recent close represents a significant milestone for the company, as it is Convergence Partners’ largest fund to date, bringing total funds under management to more than $600 million (R10.3 billion).

The closing was supported by a mix of existing and new investors, including leading global and regional development finance institutions (DFIs), pension funds, and European and African financial institutions.

CPDIF was established in June 2020 and had its first close in July 2021 for $120 million (R2 billion).

The fund is primarily interested in investing in digital infrastructure opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes investments in fibre networks, data centres, wireless, towers, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and other critical digital infrastructure needed for the region’s digital economy to grow.

Google’s MusicLM turns text into music

Google researchers recently published research on MusicLM, a text-to-music AI that creates songs, a system that creates music in any genre with a text description. This isn’t the first time an AI has created music. According to TechCrunch, projects such as Google’s AudioML and OpenAI’s Jukebox have addressed the issue. However, MusicLM’s model and large training database (280,000 hours of music) enable it to create music of surprising variety and depth.

Not only can the AI combine genres and instruments, but it can also write tracks using abstract concepts that are normally difficult for computers to understand. MusicLM can create a “spacey, otherworldly” tune that evokes a “sense of wonder and awe” if you want a hybrid of dance music and reggaeton. The technology can even create melodies from humming, whistling, or describing a painting. A story mode can combine several descriptions to create a DJ set or soundtrack.

However, MusicLM, like many other AI generators, has flaws. Some compositions sound strange, and vocals can be difficult to understand. While the performances are better than expected, they can be repetitive in ways that human works are not.

Just don’t expect to use it anytime soon. MusicLM, like other Google AI generators, will not be made available to the public due to copyright concerns.

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