CSSA president vows change

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Newly-appointed Computer Society of SA (CSSA) president, Rabelani Dagada, has pledged to use his position to solve the imbalances that exist within the South African IT sector.

In an exclusive interview with ITWeb, Dagada said during the past few years, he has observed the CSSA drastically transform itself from being a predominantly white male society to an extent where the majority of its members are black.

Dagada, who served as CSSA VP for the past two years, took over from Adrian Schofield last month.

“The membership of women remains unacceptably low, and this is a matter I intend to address during my presidency,” Dagada said.

“The CSSA has various kinds of relationships with many organisations. I would like to see most of the reciprocal agreements and collaborations with other organisations maturing to fully established partnerships,” he added.

He also pointed out that there will be more emphasis on brand positioning and intellectual engagement through publishing of white papers and influencing legislation.

“I have already met and exchanged notes with some members of Parliament. Our contribution will remain largely confined to professional development. A huge chunk of my time will be occupied by engaging in activities that will strengthen our finances. We are a non-profit organisation, but we need healthy funding to drive our professional development-related projects.”

As the new president, Dagada also pointed out that he will put more emphasis on research and development investment (R&D) among his colleagues in the IT industry. IT developments in Asia have largely been boosted by investment in skills development and R&D, he noted.

“Within the first two weeks of my presidency, I have already met or contacted about 20 chief executive officers in the IT industry. I will put emphasis to the CEOs to devise incentives for professional development.”

According to Dagada, the IT skills shortage remains a huge problem, which will stay for some time. Among others, he added, this should be attributable to the negligence of technical colleges in SA.

“Firstly, the industry needs people with hands-on experience, and the current revamp of technical colleges by the minister of higher education, Dr Blade Nzimande, brings light at the end of the tunnel.

“Secondly, there's a shocking lack of IT project management skills in SA. This has resulted in the scope-creep and budget escalation of IT projects.”

Dagada is of the view that obtaining an IT qualification doesn't necessarily equip a person with IT project management skills.

“On the other hand, skills required in the IT domain change rapidly, and that is why CSSA encourages its members to embark on continuing professional development (CPD). It is actually compulsory for the professional members to embark on CPD.

“We have been interacting with universities with the view to accredit their IT courses. As part of this process, we will pay special attention to the CPD.”

About his election, Dagada said it is a humbling experience to be voted president of an organisation that is more than 50 years old.

“We are second oldest computer society in the whole world. I accepted the position with mixed feelings because I was glad to be honoured by my colleagues, and at the same time, I immediately felt the heavy burden of responsibility on my shoulders. For the first few nights after my appointment, I struggled to catch sleep thinking about the immensity of the responsibility. I'm consoled by the fact that I'm clear about what has to be done.

“Being the CSSA president will be an exacting task; it will require energy, vision, authority and courage - qualities I shall give in abundant measure.”

He said there were two things he did not anticipate when he joined the CSSA as a student member more than 13 years ago.

“Firstly, I didn't foresee that I would become the inaugural winner of the 2008 ICT Visionary Award. Secondly, I didn't anticipate that I would at some point lead this important organisation. But I think I was directly and indirectly groomed for the position.

“I served as the Gauteng Chapter chair, member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for two years prior to my election as the president. Working with industry foot soldiers and CSSA stalwarts like Adrian Schofield, Moira de Roche, and Gail Sturgess was a huge learning experience.”

Related story:
CSSA elects new president

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