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Investing in SA through digital transformation is essential to future economic growth

Investing in SA through digital transformation is essential to future economic growth

By Hlubi Shivanda

In a connected and smart society, digital transformation has become one of the key strategies governments are adopting to promote inclusive growth. A digital driven revolution has brought with it many opportunities but developing countries continue to lag behind due to various challenges. One of the challenges facing South Africa in adopting The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for economic growth, inclusive of this, is the country’s ability to bridge its digital divide and the lack of access to technology in various communities.

As a case study, South Africa is one of the few African countries that have embraced the 'smart' agenda through promoting the digital transformation of government, business and society among other things. This is according to a study by the Research Gate which explored the opportunities and challenges confronting the South African government in implementing policy reforms aimed at leveraging the benefits of the digital driven 4IR.

Samsung South Africa has long-recognised the philosophy of investing in the country’s technological advancement as this is intrinsically linked to economic growth. This is why Samsung is spearheading large-scale ICT-driven initiatives aimed at empowering previously disadvantaged societies and introducing disruptive innovation that contributes to superior networks that reach remote areas, makes provision of low-cost smartphones, and products that have an increased shelve life.

Both globally and locally, there is clear consensus that Samsung is positioned to contribute to sustainable growth, to devote its human resource and technology to create superior products and services. Samsung is undoubtedly a leader in the global ICT industry, and its advocacy to the United Nations Development Goals (UNDG’s) of “Quality Education” and “Reduced Inequalities” aims to improve access to technology, information and communication services.

To date, there are 380 Samsung Smart Schools around the world. In regions especially in need of help, Samsung is helping find high-level solutions that meet the specific needs of local schoolchildren. For more developed regions, the Smart Schools initiative is helping bring technology to students so that they're able to access the Internet in the very same way you might be reading this article right now. We hope that these efforts can help bridge the pertinent connectivity gap around the world.

With the challenges facing South Africa when it comes to meeting its objective of using 4IR to promote economic growth, it is important for corporates to collaborate with government in public private partnerships (PPPs) to achieve these goals. Samsung is one of these strategic partners. As a company, we have over the years continued to invest in South Africa. One of our investment goals is to remain an active contributor to the future of the South African economy and a strong supporter of economic transformation in a manner inspired by the transformative impact of economic investment that took South Korea from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the most successful economies.

Recently, our Global CEO, Mr. Jong-Hee Han visited South Africa and met with the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr. Minister Ebrahim Patel and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor to discuss Samsung’s long-standing partnership and collaboration with the South African government, as well as possible future opportunities for growth and further investment. This includes high-level measurable outcomes such as greater investment that will result in job creation and enhanced production capacity as well as potential for exporting, improved competitiveness and local economic development.

As Samsung, we aim to build on the landmark multimillion-rand Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP), in partnership with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and sector support from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, which has seen three years of sustained success since May 2019. Our ten-year plan aims to address key developmental aspects linked to the National Development Plan and the overall transformation of the economy.

Further, our EEIP is aligned to the DTIC’s Black Industrialist Programme through e-waste recycling and beneficiation, which has seen an investment in two black, female-owned entities currently operating in the full value chain of e-waste. Apart from protecting the environment for future generations, the programme aims to create jobs and grow sustainable enterprises. Furthermore, this programme also has a strong focus on enterprise development and capacity building in information and communications technology through scarce skills development. In addition, we are developing 4IR skills in partnership with a number of institutions of higher learning in South Africa.

Well aware of the great importance of education, we work to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they will need to build a better world. Firm in our belief that every young person deserves a quality education regardless of their background, gender, ability, or personal circumstances, we have over the years empowered a countless number of young people to slowly but steadily contribute to positive changes in their societies.

To this effect, we have made sure that South African youth are gaining artisanal and electronics skills through the Samsung Engineering Academy programme, as well as coding, software development, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence skills through our Samsung Innovation Campus programme. We are targeting youth who are at a university going stage and want to develop skills in 4IR that will enable them to be future leaders. The focus for 2022 will be on laying the foundation by offering coding and programming. The Samsung Innovation Campus programme is designed to have educational themes that combine in-demand technology skills with core future technology capabilities as well as soft skills and job preparation.

Our Samsung Solve for Tomorrow science, technology, engineering and mathematics competition is also encouraging learners in grades 10 and 11 to solve social issues in their communities by using the STEM disciplines and we have been piloting this in 51 schools across the country.

In addition, Samsung and Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct recently celebrated the graduation of the third cohort of its successful App Factory. The nine-month internship programme launched in 2020 aims to address the issue of skills shortage in software development in South Africa.

While there is a high demand for software developers in South Africa, industry is complaining about the lack of work-ready talent. Even when graduates have the technical skills, they do not know how to work effectively in a team or transfer their knowledge to a real-world context. The App Factory recruits’ high potential graduates from various tertiary institutions and allows them to work on realistic projects under the supervision of a senior developer over a nine-month duration.

As a company, we have invested in all these initiatives because we’ve realised that to achieve our investment goals in this country – that the future will only be bright as long as the young people of today are equipped to lead us into it.

We strongly believe that our young people are the leaders of the future. And while the future will be full of challenges and uncertainties, futuristic education is what allows youths to realise their potential and prepare themselves to keep moving forward with confidence.

These communities and youth-driven initiatives are but one of the ways that we are using to embrace digital transformation in South Africa, by continuing to harness the power of technology and innovation to effect great positive change in the country. We are convinced that investment in South Africa through digital transformation will contribute positively towards sustainable future economic growth.

Hlubi Shivanda is the Director: Business Operations and Innovation & Corporate Affairs at Samsung SA

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