Huawei South Africa and the country's Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) hosted their joint annual Seeds for the Future send-off ceremony for ten university students departing on an ICT-focused study trip to the multinational techfirm in China.
Started in 2016, the Seeds for the Future SA programme is backed by the Chinese embassy and aimed at popularising communications technologies and knowledge, developing ICT professionals and increasing education opportunities.
Spawn Fan, Huawei CEO, said, "Connectivity is the key driver for inclusive, sustainable social and economic development; and one of the key challenges facing the ICT sector in South Africa and many other countries, is the need for a large pool of skilled ICT professionals."
Fan added that it was the duty of all ICT players from government to the private sector to ensure that all South Africans benefited from the opportunities that connectivity brings.
Speaking to the ten participating students, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Dr. Siyabonga Cwele highlighted government's commitment to preparing the youth for the jobs of the future.
"The Fourth Industrial Revolution will change how we interact and how people access government services. This means that we need to align our education to this reality. We need to consider introducing training in coding at an early age in schooling," said Minister Cwele.
He said South Africa is preparing for this future in partnership with business, organised labour and other social partners. The partnership between DTPS and Huawei is the implementation of the Cooperation Contract of 2016 which is aimed at capacity building, joint Innovation and Experience Centre and skills development.
At the annual Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) 2018, it was emphasised that businesses have no choice but to accept 'the digital tsunami' and position themselves to leverage the potential of 5G, AI, robotics and machine learning.
However, success will depend on skills availability, collaboration between government and academic institutions and the availability of funding to support innovation.
John Lewis, SDN Engineer and SATNAC Technical Chair, Openserve, said there are 15 research centres across the country and more engineers and skilled ICT practitioners are needed to strengthen local telecommunications.
In another example of collaboration between stakeholders, this week Siemens confirmed its participation in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and said it had presented Brad Etienne Spies from D.F Malherbe High School in Port Elizabeth with a three-and-a-half year Electronics/Mechatronics apprenticeship at the Siemens Technical Academy in Berlin, worth R1 million and a guaranteed job at Siemens in South Africa after completion.
In bidding the Seeds for the Future student s farewell, Lin Songtian, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, said, "In China if you don't know how to use a mobile phone or you don't have one, life will be difficult. Everything is now done on the phone from shopping to banking and paying for your bills. This digitsation took place within a short period of time, it is what the future will be here too soon and you need to be prepared."