Outlook for IT in Africa is promising despite economic challenges: Gartner

Despite concerns about South Africa’s economy, which has entered a technical recession, opportunities remain within the IT sector, says Paul Morrison, Gartner regional vice president sales, South Africa.

He was speaking at the opening of the research and advisory firm’s Symposium/ITxpo, which is taking place in Cape Town.

Morrison called on the industry to rise above the country’s economic challenges – which include high unemployment, a weak currency, a threat of downgrades, and the political fallout created by state capture.

To overcome challenges, technology is vital, said Morrison. “To deliver better public services at lower cost, to grow your business out of the recession, to optimise costs so that you can reinvest in frontline services and other growth opportunities, and to reduce unemployment and equip our young people with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.”

The conference in Cape Town has attracted over 1,000 attendees, “our biggest Africa symposium ever,” said Morrison.

And findings from the 2019 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey, which gathered data from 62 CIOs from Africa, representing $4.4 billion in IT spending, showed that IT budgets are expected to rise next year.

The findings formed part of a larger survey of 3,000 CIO respondents in 89 countries and all major industries.

CIOs in Africa expect their enterprise IT budget to increase 4.3%, on average in 2019. This is up from an average of 3.1% last year.

While the choice of technologies has not changed year over year, the spending amount for each has greatly increased. CIOs in Africa expect to spend the highest amount of new or additional funding in 2019 on business intelligence and analytics (57% of respondents), cyber security (46% of respondents) and digital business initiatives (39% of respondents).

The survey also showed that cyber security is becoming a Board of Directors issue. 48% of CIOs in Africa are accountable for cyber security, while it is the responsibility of 20% of the Board of Directors in Africa.

“Cybersecurity is one of our hygiene factors,” said Tomas Nielsen, research director at Gartner. “It has to work. CIOs get no thanks when it does, and when it fails spectacularly enough, they can lose their jobs.”

Cybersecurity has already been deployed by 49% of CIO respondents in Africa and 33% of them will deploy it in the next 12 months.

While cyber security is the top digital technology deployment among CIOs in Africa, disruptive technologies are reaching a tipping point, Gartner said.

Conversational platforms were ranked in the No. 2 position with 15% of CIOs in Africa who have already deployed it and 13% who will deploy it in the next 12 months.

This signals consumer-driven advances in customer channels. AI was ranked third and AI is used in connection with cyber security. “For a quarter of CIOs in Africa they will use their AI-based applications for fraud analysis on transactional data,” said Nielsen.

“In 2019 the journey into digitalisation will accelerate and it is critical that CIOs master new abilities to anticipate and prepare the needed changes that result from the scaling of their digital business initiatives,” Nielsen said.

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Outlook for IT in Africa is promising despite economic challenges: Gartner