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World needs 3m cyber pros. Can SA help?

By PAUL STAFFORD, VP for Africa at Mimecast

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If the past year has taught me anything, it is the value of resilience.

The impact of the pandemic – first on our personal and work lives, then on our economy – continues to disrupt our notions of ‘normal’. Sacrifice and change have been demanded of all of us, and generally, South Africans have risen to the occasion with commendable spirit.

As a leader of a business that works directly with South African enterprises to build greater resilience and protect them from cyber threats and other business disruptions, I have witnessed the speed at which organisations have had to adapt first-hand.

Overnight, organisations had to adapt to huge disruptions in their supply chains, safely enable remote work for the majority of their employees, and help customers navigate an uncertain operating environment. That South Africa is a prime target of the increasingly sophisticated global cybercrime industry only adds to the challenges.

Criminals are becoming smarter, and the security world is constantly developing solutions to keep up with the evolution of threats, but we don’t have the personnel to truly stay ahead of the threats. According to (ISC), there is a global shortfall of 3.12 million cybersecurity professionals

So, we are facing immense challenges. But what if I told you there has been a silver lining to the Covid ‘dark cloud’?

The pandemic has arguably been the single greatest catalyst of digital transformation we have ever seen.

The largely successful switch to remote work has opened organisations’ eyes to the fact that jobs can be fulfilled from anywhere, not only corporate offices. But it’s more than this – organisations have finally realised that experts can work from anywhere in the world and service countries across the globe

For the first time, organisations can tap into a truly global talent pool as organisations become more accustomed to not having their teams physically present – or even physically in the same country.

If your entire workforce is working from home and collaborating using technology, what’s to stop you from hiring for a role in South Africa? Companies might have been thinking about it, but it took a global pandemic to make it a reality.

South Africa stands to benefit greatly from this: our abundant youth population, outstanding work ethic and high levels of digital maturity make us an ideal location for outsourced digital services.

Africa has the talent to compete on a global scale, they just needed the right technology, connectivity and continuity to make it happen.

With the right investment and support from the private sector, African talent can be upskilled with globally relevant digital and technical support skills.

In fact, in a recent letter by Cyril Ramaphosa, the President mentions that South Africa was ranked number one as a destination for global business services in a survey of more than 600 global executives, beating out traditional strongholds such as India and the Philippines.

As a business, we have also identified a tremendous opportunity to harness South Africa’s vast skills and energy in the service of building more resilient businesses and, by effect, more resilient communities.

At Mimecast, our graduate programme upskills and empowers dozens of enthusiastic young South Africans every year, who apply their skills and expertise to support our customers while also taking their first steps toward a lifelong career.

Our partnership with the government’s Youth Employment Service (YES) sees 40 learners employed via our implementation partner.

Most significantly, the establishment and continued growth of Mimecast’s Global Services Centre, located in Johannesburg, is helping position South Africa as a hub of customer service excellence and technical expertise that supports organisations around the world. The Global Services Centre is central to us delivering on our promise of customer success and one of the jewels in our customer support crown.

Mimecast’s South African roots run deep. Our co-founders are both from South Africa, grew up here and started their first businesses here. After Mimecast was founded in the UK in 2003, South Africa was the second market we entered, and continues to be a strategic market for our now-global business.

We had planned to establish the Global Services Centre for some time, but dealt with several stumbling blocks. When the pandemic struck, we shifted our teams to remote work and ensured they had appropriate support in terms of tools, technologies and training. We realised how well the work-from-home model could support our customers, and the opportunity to establish the Global Services Centre was made clear.

We will continue to invest in our local capacity and to leverage South Africa’s vast potential as a strategic global centre of service excellence, and a talent pool to match. Our mission of building resilient organisations means that, as our customers become more resilient, we also contribute to building more resilient communities and, ultimately, a more resilient country.

I look forward to working with our teams, our customers and the broader South African community as we build greater resilience and help foster a safe, inclusive digital economy for all.

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