Cisco channels R140m towards digitisation of SA

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Clayton Naidoo, Cisco's GM for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Clayton Naidoo, Cisco's GM for Sub-Saharan Africa.

US-based networking solutions giant Cisco today announced a R140 million investment to support the digitisation of SA.

The investment focuses on three key areas: job creation through Cisco incubation centres; skills and talent development; and national cyber security.

Minister of communications and digital technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and Clayton Naidoo, general manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Cisco, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining key areas of co-operation for SA’s digital future.

The MOU forms part of Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) initiative, and contributes to SA’s National Development Plan 2030, the company says.

Cisco CDA is a global programme aimed at accelerating national digitisation agendas to support job creation, innovation, and help drive economic growth and sustainable and equitable communities.

Since the launch of the CDA initiative four years ago, Cisco has worked with a number of countries on projects that have demonstrated the benefits of digital adoption to the country, including the delivery of smart cities and utility grids, and the digitisation of hospitals, schools and ports.

The Cisco investment comes weeks after Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei launched free online and on-site training in 5G and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies, targeting 6 000 South Africans, who are either post-graduate ICT students or practitioners.

“The ICT ministry has been mandated by president Cyril Ramaphosa to lead SA’s fourth industrial revolution efforts,” says Ndabeni-Abrahams.

“How we respond to the 4IR must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all players from the private and public sector, academia, government and civil society. It is for this reason that the department led the Coordinate.Collaborate.Execute Industry 4.0 engagement forum in October 2018 to harmonise all efforts aimed at adequately preparing South Africa for the 4IR.

“Working with our partners, we will build a capable talent pool that is equipped with the requisite skills and opportunities, making sure the workforce is ready for the revolution,” she says.

“At Cisco, we see technology at the heart of our digital future, driving inclusive economic growth, creating jobs and igniting innovation,” says Naidoo.

“Since opening our first office in Johannesburg 30 years ago, Cisco has been committed to South Africa, working on projects that make the benefits of the Internet and technology available to broad groups of the society. With the launch of the South Africa CDA programme, we open a new chapter in our long-standing partnership, creating value for the country, its citizens and businesses.”

Under the MOU, as part of CDA, Cisco will support the development of a skilled workforce that is equipped to participate in and benefit from the digital revolution.

Cisco says it has invested in educating and upskilling students and graduates, among them unemployed youth, through its Networking Academy, which provides students with hands-on digital skills to prepare them for careers in the digital economy.

Altogether, the company says, more than 71 000 students participated in Networking Academy courses in SA since the programme began, 30% of them female.

In the previous academic year, Networking Academy partnered with 138 educational establishments and educated over 16 000 students in SA, the company adds.

Building on its Cisco Networking Academy, Cisco intends to strengthen its collaboration with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges with the aim of having every TVET college as a Networking Academy partner, capable of delivering digital and cyber security-related courses.

In addition, Cisco will create content and tools that can be deployed to create digital learning hubs in public libraries, accessible by the local population. Cisco will work with government to make the digital skills and cyber security content available to government employees.

On job creation, the networking company says in November 2018, it opened the first Cisco EDGE Incubation Centre in Pretoria.

Since then, it has continued to expand the reach of EDGE, opening incubation centres in Dube Trade Port, KwaZulu-Natal.

The objective of the centres is to help small and medium businesses in the digital age speed up their entry to market, and as a result, create new jobs for the local economy, says Cisco.

The EDGE centres provide small and medium businesses with Cisco technology, along with training and enablement programmes.

Through the CDA programme, Cisco plans to expand the reach of the Edge centres and establish similar centres in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

It notes the centres will specialise in topics that are relevant to the local economy, such as smart ports, Internet of things in agriculture and smart cities.

Regarding national cyber security, Cisco will work with government in leveraging the company’s cyber security capabilities to help with the protection of the South African government and economy from cyber attacks and help strengthen the country’s capabilities in cyber defence.

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