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The digital skills matrics and graduates will need in 2020

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

Over the next few months, South African matrics and university graduates will have one eye firmly on the future as they try to identify which career path will give them the best chance of success. And with youth unemployment at nearly 60%, it’s hard to understate the importance of considering digital skills as an option.

Ironically, far too few young people are making the choice to go into the digital and technology spaces, where South Africa is experiencing a major skills shortage. So bad is the skills shortage that research from the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) shows that 37% of employers are recruiting from outside South Africa’s borders to fulfil their technology needs.

Digital skills

It’s also important to remember that, today, digital skills are needed in every industry. A PWC study, for instance, found that some 80% of business leaders in the financial services space are concerned about skills shortages as an impediment to growth. 

Young people acquiring digital skills isn’t just an important way to reduce unemployment, therefore, but also an important step in growing the economy and transforming businesses. But technology and digital are broad fields, encompassing a wide variety of skills. So, where does one start?

The following new areas are rapidly developing and in need of skilled professionals:

Artificial intelligence

A lot of people are fearful of the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on human workers, believing that it will see them replaced entirely.

In the future, however, we are more likely to see something called “augmented humanity” where the majority of workers are being assisted by AI rather than replaced.

It is predicted that by 2020, AI will be a positive net job motivator, creating 2.3 million jobs while only eliminating 1.8 million jobs. Young people are in a great position to take advantage and should look to develop the specific skills required for the jobs of the future.

As much as businesses will need people who can build AI-enabled solutions, they’ll also need employees who can understand where AI will and won’t benefit the business. While the former requires dedicated study, some basic short courses on AI will go a long way to helping with the latter.

Internet of Things

Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people. This interconnectedness is changing the way we run cities, transport networks, factories, and even offices.

People who can build and service IoT devices, as well as those who program the software they run on will be in high demand. 

Also highly valued, however, will be the people who can understand and analyse the high volumes of data that come from IoT systems and extrapolate what they mean for the businesses concerned.

Analytics

But IoT devices aren’t the only things producing data. We live in an age of massive data, producing around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. And by 2020, there will be around 40 trillion gigabytes of data (40 zettabytes). Anyone capable of processing and analysing that data is, and will continue to be, in high demand.

The shortage is so acute that one South African institution providing courses in data science offers graduates their course fees back if they don’t find a job with an annual starting salary of R240 000 or higher. 

Here again, being able to use the available tools such as Oribi and Decibel are incredibly sought-after skills and don’t require any programming ability.

Automation

Automation is another trend which fearmongers believe will result in mass job losses. But implemented properly, it can actually help workers be more productive and add value.

In the digital marketing space, for instance, automation software takes care of repetitive tasks, reduces human error, helps workers manage complexity, and allows them to measure and optimise their efforts.

As technology starts managing more mundane tasks, specific human qualities such as creativity and cognitive flexibility will become more important. Jobs that will remain in high demand include sales executives, customer service and experience agents, people co-ordination and people management roles, creative directors and technologists, software developers, computer programmers, and of course data scientists to name but a few.

It should hardly be surprising then that the World Economic Forum’s top 10 skills for 2020 include:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Exposure and opportunity  

Of course, the nature of South Africa’s unequal society and the attendant education issues mean that many young people simply aren’t exposed to these skills and the opportunities they present.

While several organisations, including codeX, WeThinkCode, and Google Digital Skills for Africa, are looking to change that, they can only do so much.

If we’re to make a real dent in youth unemployment, the education system needs to be overhauled to ensure that digital skills are baked into the entire curriculum. If not, then even the young people who are aware of the opportunities it presents will always be playing catch up. 

Young people need to know that these skills are in high demand and direct their efforts at acquiring them. It is ironic that in a country with an unemployment rate as high as South Africa’s there are industries desperate to employ people. By bridging the gap between business and youth, we can close the skills gap and tackle youth unemployment at the same time. It may be a challenge, but it’s far from insurmountable. 

Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.

Three technology trends shaping the property industry

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

The Digital Revolution is changing our economy, and with that, the way businesses operate and serve their customers. The property industry is no exception. Three key technology trends are shaping the sector’s value chain, disrupting old models and bringing about new opportunities.

When it comes to digital technology, the world of real estate is catching up fast. A 2018 global survey by KPMG amongst 270 real estate decision-makers from 30 countries shows that 97% of respondents believe digital innovations are somewhat influencing their businesses.

More than half (60%) feels technology is having a profound impact on their operations. In addition, one in nine participants said they have either a clear digital technology vision and strategy in place or are in the process of developing one.

An internal digital and innovation strategy is a crucial asset for any company which wants to remain agile, be able to adapt to changes, and tap into new trends, of which three stand out.

1. Disintermediation

The first one is disintermediation, which is a fancy word for processes and tools that give consumers direct access to products and services instead of having to deal with an intermediary.

Think of apps that connect property investors, buyers, sellers, owners and renters directly to one another, bypassing agents and other third parties, or online platforms that facilitate remote 360-degree viewings of properties and neighbourhoods.

Another example is the variety of Blockchain-based solutions that enable sellers and buyers to sign smart contracts and leases, each from different parts of the world, without needing to be in the same room or requiring a witness.

2. Augmented Analytics

The second trend companies in the property sector need to keep an eye on is Augmented Analytics. This particular concept is all about data, any business’ most important and valuable asset. The reason is simple: being able to capture, interpret, and analyse relevant information allows you to see trends more clearly and make more informed business decisions, which will strengthen your overall operations.

Having access to data can assist property companies to predict market fluctuations, mitigate the impacts of these changes, and seize opportunities when they arise.

Harnessing the power of IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), for instance, may help you identify cash flow irregularities, predict water and energy usage trends within your developments, schedule the maintenance of technical building components, assess the optimal usage of rental spaces, and understand the behaviour of your customers.

All of this may sound complicated but, thanks to the digital age, you don’t have to be a data scientist to capture and analyse data due to a wide array of easy-to-use digital solutions.

Like Oribi for example, a solution that is turning the mystery of data analytics into child’s play. This platform provides insights that are easy to understand without requiring any assistance from an analytics expert or developer. These insights can be translated into actions and improve your ROI substantially.

3. Tenant Centricity

Finally, a third trend that is taking the real estate sector by storm revolves around tenant centricity. These days, the success of any residential complex or office block is about being able to meet your users’ expectations. These have changed significantly over the past few years.

Today’s home-owner expects more from the place he or she calls home. Besides security and comfort, many are after tech-enabled, fibre-ready units that provide them with an experience, from lifestyle amenities, sports facilities and retail outlets to entertainment options.

Living has become more than residing in between four walls. It is no surprise the mixed-use sector has seen tremendous growth in South Africa over the past decade.

The same can be said for commercial tenants. Today’s business-owners need less space to operate than a few years ago, with a greater need for technology infrastructure.

This has paved the way for a booming co-working sector. Such shared office hubs offer private workspaces and offices, but with shared facilities such as boardrooms, telecommunications infrastructure, teleconferencing facilities and other tech-enabled amenities.

This ties in with a growing need for flexibility, for instance, in terms of working hours. Most shared business hubs are open 24/7, and this is not a coincidence. Companies no longer run between 9 am and 5 pm.

Real estate companies need to be mindful of how technology is changing customer needs and expectations, and continue to adapt their services and processes to remain relevant.

Technology provides an abundance of opportunities to improve your business, and the companies who are willing to explore and embrace this will certainly come out on top in the future.