Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Systemic Approach to E-Skilling in South Africa

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Systemic Approach to E-Skilling in South Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

The establishment and development of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) in recent decades, represents a material foundation for networked society, often referred to as Information Society or Knowledge Economies--here named as Knowledge Society. Creating such a technology-supported society that can be increasingly self-reliant, socially cohesive and equitable, involves fundamentally new ways of thinking, working and living. It requires the building of new capacities, not only in the work force but the entire population. These capacities are inter alia inevitably associated with the use of ICT and are often referred to as e-skills--comprising knowledge, skills, and competencies, and spans over a number of economic and social dimensions (EESF, 2004; SFIA, 2008). These skills, essential in empowering individuals so that they can participate fully as citizens of the Information Society, broadly refer to the ability to develop and use ICT to adequately participate in an environment increasingly dominated by access to electronically enabled information and a well-developed ability to synthesize this into effective and relevant knowledge (WSIS, 2005). However, these skills are in very short supply across the world generally but in developing nation states in particular. Obtaining appropriate e-skills is not a once-off event since the speed of paradigm technological changes requires that skills need to be continually kept up-to-date and relevant. Further, competent currency is often dependent on personal peer-to-peer interactions and on-line support that in itself requires an escalating level of skills. For example, Europe's growing e-skills shortage is affecting the productivity and the competitiveness of large and small organizations across society (eSEW, 2010; eSN, 2010). The situation in South Africa is not much better, causing South Africa (SA) to slip down the international 'e-readiness' rankings--it is estimated that South Africa currently experiences a shortage of over 70,000 IT professionals (ITWeb, 2008). The shortage of e-skills is even more worrying because of the fact that the supply of ICT graduates is now showing a decline (Accenture, 2008; Birchwood Declaration, 2007). This general lack of e-skills is seen by the South African Department of Communications (DoC) as a serious impediment to the Nation meeting its commintment to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the World Summit on Information Society goals (WSIS, 2005), New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the South African Medium Term Strategic Framework 2009-14 (MTSF) (DoC, 2007). Locally, e-skills are seen as vital in addresing poverty, sustainable livelihoods, the fight against crime, building cohesive communities, international cooperation, and building a developmental state (ANOP, 2010).

Although the e-skilling agenda is already being addressed by other, mostly developed, countries (e.g., UK, EU states), the solutions for these countries could not be easily replicated in the South African context as these solutions largely revolve around so called "practitioners" (or professional) e-skills (e.g., SFIA, EESF, 2004) and e-competences (e.g., European e-Competency Framework--EeCF). Unlike South Africa, these countries do not have a need to address, for example, the so called "dual economy", huge social and economic disparities (SA has one of the highest Gini coefficients in the world), massive illiteracy, or considerable "digital divide", which is seen through inequitable access to and ineffective use of the contemporary ICT. Thus, overcoming these serious problems, facing equity and prosperity in South Africa, required a different, substantially proactive and somewhat innovative effort as an increasingly large portion of the population will require effective e-skills for sustainable socio-economic growth and development (NeSPA, 2010). Thus SA government has taken a systemic and systematic approach to e-skilling the nation. …

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