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COVID-19 boosted SA’s digital transformation

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Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies SA.
Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies SA.

Organisations in SA are more likely to invest in digital technology, including artificial intelligence, edge computing, digital services and a digital workplace, when compared to their global peers, a new report shows.

The Digital Transformation Index 2020 report compiled by Dell Technologies details how local organisations are accelerating and leading digital transformation projects amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The index is a global study that analyses and maps the digital transformation progress of mid to large companies across the world. With 5 300 C-Suite respondents surveyed globally from 23 countries from a variety of industries and functions, the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index 2020 compares South African respondents with global peers.

It says the majority (84%) of South African organisations surveyed recognise that as a result of disruption last year, they need a more agile and scalable IT infrastructure to allow for contingencies.

“The findings also show they are far more likely to invest in emerging technologies in the next one to three years than the global average surveyed to become digital enterprises of the future.

“The list, in order of priority, include 5G infrastructure (47%), artificial intelligence algorithms (46%), real-time applications at the edge (44%), cyber security solutions (42%) and data management tools to transform data into something that is useful and protected (38%).

Doug Woolley, managing director of Dell Technologies SA, comments: “The Digital Transformation Index 2020 survey for South Africa, undertaken in November and December 2020, is particularly pertinent as it clearly shows organisations across the country have already begun to rollout significant digitalisation initiatives to drive business transformation. These initiatives will start to take shape in 2021.

“In many cases, South African organisations surveyed are ahead of the global average and can be seen to be advocating digital transformation initiatives.”

The report says digital transformation is now seen as a critical business driver for economic growth, with 79% of organisations in SA having fast-tracked some digital transformation programmes.

A further 84% are in the midst of re-inventing their business model, which is 5% more than the global average of 79%, says the report.

According to the index, when comparing the South African results from 2018 till 2020, digital leaders (the most digitally mature organisations) have remained the same, at 8%.

“Digital adopters (the second most digitally mature group) have grown considerably from 23% in 2018 to 49% in 2020 – a 20-percentage point increase. The digital evaluators (the third most digitally mature group, characterised by gradual digital transformation and planning) have seen a 4% drop between 2018 and 2020.”

On COVID-19, the report says the pandemic may have catalysed digital transformation, but continuous transformation is proving difficult to sustain – globally, 94% of organisations are facing entrenched barriers to transformation.

In South Africa, the barriers cited include lack of budget and resources (up from second place in 2018), lack of economic growth (a new entry since 2018) and lack of the right technology solutions to work at the speed of business (a jump of four places since 2018).

Responding in an uncertain world due to COVID-19, the report notes that prior to the pandemic, business investments were strongly focused on foundational technologies, rather than emerging technologies.

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