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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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Rain, Telkom Mobile, lead in affordable data

A new report by the telecoms regulator in South Africa reveal the true consumer champions in mobile data costs

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The latest bi-annual tariff analysis report produced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reveals that Telkom Mobile data costs for bundles are two-thirds lower than those of Vodacom and MTN. On the other hand, Rain is half the price again of Telkom. 

The report focuses on the 163 tariff notifications lodged with ICASA during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.

“It seeks to ensure that there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make an informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings,” said Icasa.

ICASA says it observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions that were on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the period. 

The report shows that MTN and Vodacom charge the same prices for a 1GB and a 3GB data bundle at R149 and R299 respectively.  On the other hand, Telkom Mobile charges (for similar-sized data bundles) R100 (1GB) and R201 (3GB). Cell C discontinued its 1GB bundle, which was replaced with a 1.5GB bundle offered at the same price as the replaced 1GB data bundle at R149. 

Rain’s “One Plan Package” prepaid mobile data offering of R50 for a 1GB bundle remains the most affordable when compared to the offers from other MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).  

“This development should have a positive impact on customers’ pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and increases choice,” said Icasa.

The report also revealed that the cost of out-of-bundle data had halved at both MTN and Vodacom, from 99c per Megabyte a year ago to 49c per Megabyte in the first quarter of this year. This was still two thirds more expensive than Telkom Mobile, which has charged 29c per Megabyte throughout this period (see graph below).

Meanwhile, from having positioned itself as consumer champion in recent years, Cell C has fallen on hard times, image-wise: it is by far the most expensive mobile network for out-of-bundle data, at R1.10 per Megabyte. Its prices have not budged in the past year.

The report highlights the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the dramatically plummeting cost of data per Megabyte as one buys bigger and bigger bundles on a 30-day basis (see graph below).

For 20 Gigabyte bundles, all mobile operators are in effect charging 4c per Megabyte. Only at that level do costs come in at under Rain’s standard tariffs regardless of use.

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Qualcomm wins 5G as Apple and Intel cave in

A flurry of announcements from three major tech players ushered in a new mobile chip landscape, wrItes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week’s shock announcement by Intel that it was canning its 5G modem business leaves the American market wide open to Qualcomm, in the wake of the latter winning a bruising patent war with Apple.

Intel Corporation announced its intention to “exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices”.

Intel said it would also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business, sharpening its focus on a market expected to be dominated by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Intel said it would continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but did not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020. In other words, it would no longer be supplying chips for iPhones and iPads in competition with Qualcomm.

“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”

The news came immediately after Qualcomm and Apple issued a joint announced of an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, along with a six-year license agreement, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

Apple had previously accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominant position in modem chips for smartphones and charging excessive license fees. It ordered its contract manufacturers, first, to stop paying Qualcomm for the chips, and then to stop using the chips altogether, turning instead to Intel.
With Apple paying up and Intel pulling out, Qualcomm is suddenly in the pound seats. It shares hit their highest levels in five years after the announcements.

Qualcomm said in a statement: “As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics released a report on the same day that showed Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia will lead the market in core 5G infrastructure, namely Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, by 2023 as the 5G market takes off. Huawei is expected to have the edge as a result of the vast scale of the early 5G market in China and its long term steady investment in R&D. According to a report entitled “Comparison and 2023 5G Global Market Potential for leading 5G RAN Vendors – Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia”, two outliers, Samsung and ZTE, are expected to expand their global presence alongside emerging vendors as competition heats up.

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