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South Africans miss out on IT careers

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Very few South Africans consider jobs in ICT, despite it being one of the best paying career paths out there. SHASHI HANSJEE, CEO at Entelect, discusses some of the reasons for this.

After speaking to various friends, family members and clients about the ICT careers, it seems that very few South Africans consider careers in software development or information and communication technologies (ICT) when leaving school.

There are a number of reasons for this, but first let’s look at why a career in software should be given some consideration by this country’s youth.

In 2014, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for revealed that four of the top ten companies were software or technology-related organisations. In fact, the top two were both software companies. Of course, this isn’t an indicator of the attractiveness of all software companies, but the ‘Google-philosophy’ and Silicon Valley culture is certainly more prevalent in tech companies. On the local front, according to Career Junction’s Index (July 2015), the ICT industry sees the highest job vacancy levels in the country. The demand for people to fill ICT roles 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 SA in 2015 is that of a software engineer. This particular statistic is difficult to measure and differs from survey to survey, however, simply because of the demand for these skills, software engineers and developers will usually be in the top ten of any salary survey. Finally, in the biggest worldwide developer survey – StackOverflow’s 2015 Developer Survey – around 70 percent 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?

At present, the biggest reason is our backgrounds. A large percentage of this country’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 STEM (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 instant gratification of building something from scratch. With software being a part of everything nowadays – from apps on phones and devices, social media, as well as the process which runs a DSTV Explora or the SatNav in a car – software developers’ work is often showcased in the public eye. What could be cooler than that?

In comparison, the ICT industry is the largest private sector employer in India. India has a population of more than one billion people, and has embraced an industry that barely existed there twenty years ago. This has made the nation one of the most powerful ICT forces globally, and demand for the country’s ICT services has driven significant economic development. African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria are also following suit.

In South Africa, the ICT market continues to expand, and the need for software professionals is clearly present. However, we currently just don’t have people with the right skills to be able to meet this demand and play on the world ICT stage. If Indian can use this industry to boost their economy, why can’t we, and why don’t we?

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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