CIO Women's Dinner: Tech trends keeping IT leaders awake

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Leading women CIOs took table talk to a new level, focusing on cybersecurity, power and AI at the very first CIO South Africa Women's Dinner.

By Kgaogelo Letsebe

On 8 March, CIO South Africa in partnership with Software AG, hosted its very first South Africa Women’s Dinner at the Ethos Restaurant in Rosebank in honour of International Women’s Day.

Themed ‘Tech trends that keep you awake’, the dinner gave female CIOs a unique opportunity to share thoughts on challenges and solutions experienced within their organisations.

The dinner began with Andile Ngcaba, founding partner and chairperson at Convergence Partners wishing all the women well on International Women's Day and highlighting that it has been a good start to the year for gender equality in the industry as the International Telecommunications Union has appointed its first female secretary general, which was “long overdue but still worth celebrating”.

Delving straight into the topic, Andile spoke about the importance of having green data centres as a priority in the country as environmental awareness has become a key issue in the industry. He said the industry is starting to be noticed from an environmental perspective and it is important to adhere to world standards as such. He encouraged South Africans - despite the present power crisis - to look to themselves for solutions around this.

“We need to appreciate where we are as a country – South Africa. We are doing exceptionally well when it comes to data centres. When experiencing pain or a problem, we need to look at ourselves as one in 8 billion and work out where our problem is stacked. It is even possible that we can use our advances to help others. For a continent with the size and population of Africa, we can’t keep importing everything,” he said.

Andile encouraged attendees to look to initiatives such as Partner to Connect Coalition and Giga Global as solutions to tackle issues around access and connectivity.

Data, AI and cost constraints

First on the challenge list was the issue of gender equality within the C-suite. Many of the women at the dinner said that they were “used to being the only woman on the board”, which shows that we have a long way to go in South Africa at executive level.

One guest mentioned data sovereignty as a challenge, but said it was resolved by the fact that Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have data centres in South Africa, so the companies can almost guarantee that the data stays local.

For another CIO the rapid rate in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing and how it is one of the trends that is keeping her at night. While it is exciting and people are experimenting with AI, she said, there is a concern about biases in AI models. As a solution, she suggested that it would be a good idea to be involved in the training of AI as a black South African woman.

On the topic of AI, one CIO raised a particular concern around the cybersecurity or lack thereof associated with the tools especially with the access given to AI like ChatGPT that keeps her awake at night.

Other challenges which were explored on the night included the expectations to deliver IT solutions in cost-constrained environments and the difficulties connected to developing and retaining young local talent in a global competitive environment.

At the end of the evening the CIOs all expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to get together and share their challenges, and think of solutions, not only for each business, but for the entire country and continent.

Those in attendance were:

  • Faith Burn, Eskom CIO
  • Phumza Dyani, SADC Lead: PMI
  • Georgina Guedes, CFO South Africa Executive Community Manager
  • Keneilwe Gwabeni, Telkom CIO
  • Zanele Majeke, Standard Bank CIO
  • Kholiwe Makhohliso, Software AG Country MD
  • Lulekwa Mcwabeni, Likwezi Consulting CEO
  • Vuyokazi Menye, National Housing Finance Corporation CIO
  • Makano Mosidi, PIC Chief Technology Officer
  • Mmule Sapula, Nutun IT Executive
  • Nomahlubi Sonjica, CIO South Africa Community Manager
  • Thato Sopeng, Sasol CIO
  • Avhatendi Zwane, head of Centre of Enablement at Liberty

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