Johannesburg - Unless the networking skills shortage is addressed urgently, by 2009 demand for networking skills in South Africa will exceed supply by 24% and there will be a shortage of more than 113 900 skilled people required to help drive economic growth.
This is one of the findings of a new report on the demand for networking skills across Middle East and Africa (MEA), part of a series from the IDC, commissioned by Cisco Systems.
In contrast, findings from the same study carried out across Western and Eastern Europe revealed an average networking skills gap of 11.8% by 2008, emphasising the challenge that South Africa is facing.
"The government identified the shortage of suitably skilled labour as the single biggest threat to the successful implementation of the Accelerated and Shared Growth-South Africa (Asgisa) initiative, with the shortage most prominent in the areas of engineering, construction, sciences, management and skilled technical fields such as IT technicians/engineers," said Duncan Hindle, director general of department of education.
Given the fact that South Africa continues to experience impressive economic growth and has consistently maintained GDP growth levels of 4-5%, the IDC expects the ongoing economic expansion in South Africa to fuel the demand for ICT technologies.
"The business environment has evolved in recent years where supply chains compete against supply chains.
"Organisations are now, more than ever, interconnected entities that depend on the network for integration with their business partners.
Influences country as a whole
"Not having sufficient networking skills available for this integration influences the competitiveness of not only organisations, but for the country as a whole," said Phillip van Heerden, senior IDC analyst.
The situation is even more extreme when certain technology areas are singled out. For example, the shortfall between supply and demand in advanced networking technology skills (IP telephony, security and wireless) will be 30% in 2009.
This represents 69 700 skilled people.
Again, this is in contrast to findings from Western and Eastern Europe that showed an average advanced networking skills gap of 15.8% by 2008.
Dr Clive Fynn, general manager Cisco Systems South Africa, said although there are a number of initiatives currently underway in South Africa to promote further training in science and technology, the forecasted gaps highlight the need for more work to be done to provide the right training courses and to encourage student enrollment.
"The study findings represent a call to action to governments, the private sector, educators and individuals to do more to address these needs.
"If plans are not put into place now, technology adoption, business competitiveness and market growth will be placed at risk," Fynn noted.