Software is South Africa’s most promising business opportunity

Issue 1 2023 Integrated Solutions, IT infrastructure

As digital transformation continues across South Africa, the focus is on how software and IT-related services can play a role in transforming enterprises and entire industries. The country enjoyed a rebound in spending on hardware, software and IT services in 2021, with overall IT revenue growth at 6.5%, signalling post-COVID recovery with rates differing across sub-sectors. Meanwhile, cloud service providers continue to increase their local footprint to meet the growing demand for cloud services. But how did we get here, and what does this all mean?

When we talk about software as a business opportunity, we are not just talking about software or IT as a standalone product. Deploying computer and network-related solutions to augment traditional processes represents an evolutionary shift in how the world works. Cloud computing, automation, and software applications are all hotbeds for real innovation. With global IT spending projected to total $4.5 trillion in 2022, we cannot afford to be left behind.

By understanding these systems’ impact and influence, South African enterprises can innovate, build, deploy, and utilise those that take full advantage of software and cloud computing.

Flying through the clouds

Enabling businesses to deliver the best services to their customers, many software solutions exist to cater to specific functions throughout their IT infrastructure. Security products aim to give you oversight of your environment and offer measures to identify, analyse, and mitigate potential threats. Network products provide essential data functions and can ensure a high level of performance and efficiency. Even something as straightforward as a collaboration tool like Cisco Webex, built for web and video conferencing, yields priceless value in terms of internal and external business communications.

Cloud computing exponentiates these benefits. While organisations traditionally had to keep their IT operations onsite, operating within cloud environments allows them to scale accordingly as well as reduce operating costs. Service providers are constantly upgrading their systems and, with the accelerated rollout of secure data centres across South Africa, the cloud is no longer an innovation reserved for large-scale corporations and multinationals. Access is always improving, and thus smaller businesses can invest in new technologies, develop new products and applications, and effectively compete in regional and global markets.

The challenges we face

As much as we recognise the positives, South Africa does face serious obstacles on the road to becoming a continental IT powerhouse. Cybersecurity is one of them. According to research from Cisco Secure, 80% of South African organisations have reported a ransomware attack in the last two years, with the number of attacks doubling in 2022. In addition, 94% of organisations experienced phishing attacks in the last year.

The quality of code and implementation of DevOps is also a prevalent concern. The Consortium for Information & Software Quality reports the implementation of poor-quality software cost businesses in the US an estimated $2.08 trillion in 2020. This issue is expected to rear its head locally in the near future, with potentially severe consequences.

These obstacles call for the best solutions available. Regardless of whether we’re talking about software, cloud computing or cybersecurity, going forward, South African businesses cannot afford to cut corners on their 4IR investments.

Prepared for the possibilities

Home to a blooming start-up ecosystem, and as a hub for innovation and infrastructure, South Africa has the potential to be a leader in IT services thanks to the input and ambitions of the private sector. According to the OfferZen 2022 State of the Software Developer Nation report, Africa’s software engineering industry experienced unprecedented growth in 2021. In South Africa alone, 89 tech start-ups were able to raise over R5 billion together. This growth has also resulted in more companies hiring software developers, elevating the sector and demonstrating its proactivity and potential.

This potential is also aided by a strong emphasis on 4IR education and skills development. We see movement in the public sector with the establishment of 4IR learning facilities, where young people can learn in areas including cloud computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence. In the private sector, initiatives such as the Cisco Networking Academy have, for years, been providing skills training and certification courses for people looking to become skilled in, and acclimatised to, using new technologies and software solutions. This has a big impact on our labour landscape and sets the stage for further digital transformation.

The prevalence of cloud services, the transition to hybrid and multi-cloud environments, the rise of 4IR skills and the growing focus on cybersecurity; all these elements are connected and offer new kinds of local business opportunities. By working together and realising the innovative power therein, we can realise the next form of South Africa’s digital landscape.

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