CIO SA Tech news roundup: South Africa AI Institute, Uber SSA, Huawei talent development programme in SA, and Gartner predictions

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South Africa is establishing an AI Institute

South Africa is establishing an artificial intelligence (AI) Institute to improve robotics and coding instruction in public schools.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, minister of communications and digital technologies, revealed that the AI Institute will be established in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg and Tshwane University of Technology, which are co-founder institutions, as well as her department.

She was speaking at the G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting in Indonesia, where she emphasised the importance of developing ICT skills. She explained that, like most African countries, South Africa has a young population that is increasingly embracing the digital economy, as evidenced by the creativity and innovation of young people in the ICT space.

“At present, learners in over a thousand schools are designing and producing robots, both for gaming and to complete tasks the learners find tedious for human completion. Next year, learners in these and additional schools that will join this category will compete in a National Robotics Development Challenge,” she said.

“The teaching of robotics and coding in our public schools will further be enhanced by our soon to be launched Artificial Intelligence Institute that is being established in partnership with institutions of higher learning,” she added.

Concerning connectivity, the minister said that the government will finalise the roadmap for the deployment of 4G and 5G networks, including in rural areas, this year. "We will continue to work to achieve the goals of our SA Connect programme in order to achieve universal internet access by 2024."

Huawei Digital Power launches talent development programme in Southern Africa

Huawei Digital Power recently launched its southern Africa talent development programme. The programme aims to provide technical knowledge and skills in the digital power space to 1,000 practitioners and tertiary students in the region.

The programme, which was announced at Solar Show Africa 2022, is part of the tech giant’s commitment to collaborate with stakeholders to drive growth and ecosystem development in Africa’s solar sector. “Africa has immense potential when it comes to renewables and solar energy in particular,” said Xia Hesheng, president of Huawei Southern Africa Digital Power business.

“In fact, African countries have more than 40 percent of the world’s solar energy resources. It’s critical that the right skills are in place in order to unlock that potential. At Huawei, we are committed to working with all industry stakeholders to ensure that the right skill sets are in place,” he added.

Gartner predicts geopolitical risks could present new opportunities for CIOs

According to Gartner, by 2026, approximately 70 percent of multinational enterprises will adjust the countries in which they operate through hedging in order to reduce their geopolitical exposure. Gartner predicts that the geopolitics of digital infrastructure and regulation are quickly becoming an issue that multinational CIOs must take the lead on.

The research firm defines geopolitics as the geographic influence on power relationships in international relations. According to the report, IT is now playing an increasingly important role in the battle between nations for supremacy in areas such as economics, military, and society, which presents new challenges and opportunities for CIOs.

“Digital geopolitics is now one of the most disruptive trends that CIOs must address, with many now dealing with trade disputes, legislation coming from one country that impacts global operations, and government imposed restrictions on the acquisition and use of digital technology,” said Brian Prentice, vice president analyst at Gartner.

According to a survey of 273 respondents from the US, Europe, and Asia, 41 percent of enterprise boards of directors viewed geopolitical power shifts and turbulence as one of the most significant risks to performance.

Data sovereignty, Gartner says, will be a key focus area for CIOs, including helping to build a local technology industry, running a risk centre, and providing understanding of cyberspace in various nations.

CIOs must be aware of international regulations and ensure that the enterprise's IT operating model and practices comply with the regulations. They must also articulate to other executives how the IT organisation supports compliance across the enterprise, Gartner suggests.

As most governments or administrations look to build a robust local technology industry to circumnavigate geopolitical risks, CIOs, according to Gartner, should use this opportunity to proactively engage with governments. “They must localise specific initiatives into countries that have the best integration between local expertise and access to government co-innovation support,” the report says.

Employers struggle to fill IT, data science roles

Leaders anticipate staffing up over the next six months, but they say urgently needed IT and networking jobs will be hard to fill.

According to an Upwork 2022 survey, businesses want to hire but are having difficulty finding qualified candidates. Seven in 10 hiring managers in the US who responded to the survey expect to hire more people in the next six months, but 60 percent said it's difficult to find qualified candidates for specific positions.

Accounting (33 percent), IT and networking (30 percent), and operations (29 percent), are the job categories hiring managers need to fill the most urgently. Over the next six months, customer service will be a top priority for more than half of the respondents (52 percent).

Data science and analytics roles will be the most difficult to fill, according to nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of hiring managers, followed by architecture and engineering (58 percent) and IT and networking (58 percent).

Upwork, a freelancing platform, has reported increased interest in independent contractor use as businesses deal with talent shortages and shift away from traditional work environments.

Workplace technology is an important component. A Citrix marketing manager previously told HR Dive that companies should have tech strategies in place to address the new realities of remote work. Another issue is retention. According to a PRO Unlimited report from April, more than half of contingent workers who left their assignment early did so within the first two months.

New safety features for Uber SSA

Uber launched several new products and features this week that will be available this month in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, and Nigeria. The launch, which took place in multiple locations across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), also featured Audio Recording, the latest addition to its suite of safety features.

Uber SSA is excited to be expanding into eight more cities in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana during September. “As we gear ourselves to mark our 10th year anniversary next year, we are excited about moving into more cities enabling people to go anywhere and can get anything. Our commitment to raising the bar on safety remains relentless and we continue to work hard to grow the over three million earnings opportunities we have created thus far,” said Kagiso Khaole, general manager for Uber SSA.

“Safety is at the core of how we do business and we are proud to announce three new safety features to help improve the experience of users,” he added. Some of Uber’s latest safety features include the Audio Recording pilot in South Africa, in-app emergency service in Nigeria, and Safety Check Up across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

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