During an in-depth discussion with the Capitec Bank technology leadership it became clear that one of the most wanted professionals in banking is the Data professional. Capitec Bank indicated that they will soon be in the hunt for 500 Data scientists. Capitec will not be the only entity in search of data professionals. Banks across the board are gearing up for the next evolution of banking which will require more tech skills as more banks rely on cloud services.
Standard Bank Group’s total IT spending, including staff costs, topped R10-billion in the first six months of 2022 as the financial services giant ramped up its cloud migration project. Beyond banking, other corporate businesses will also require data scientists as they intensify their digital transformation efforts. This is good news for anyone who is a skilled data professional. The only problem is that there’s only a few such professionals in South Africa. How can SA prepare for the increased demand for data professionals?
In anticipation of the greater demand for data skills there should be increased efforts towards training data scientists. Currently, corporations are beginning to offer internal learning programmes to upskill employees with new skills. Capitec revealed that they are about to sign a deal with Udemy as part of a process to upskill internal staff. The University of the Western Cape has re-organised itself to focus on data sciences and recently just developed a new curriculum and degree with increased focus on data.
In 2019, The University of Stellenbosch launched its School of Data Science with an aim of enhancing research in this space. All of these efforts however will not be enough to cater for the demand we are about to see in the data space. In the world that has accepted work from anywhere, we will see some of these skills being sourced anywhere in the world.
The current demand for data scientists in South Africa requires an urgent collaborative effort between business and academia to produce data skills.This is critical not only to save corporates from experiencing challenges that emanate from their databases but to exploit economic opportunities presented by data. South Africa has not even begun to turn its data into an economic resource. In order to do this, SA will have to intensify its efforts in developing data skills. Part of this may require a dedicated National School of Data (online or in brick and mortar). Skills however are just one part of the challenges that will be faced by entities that are innovating. Another challenge that may be faced by banks in particular, is the monopoly of cloud service providers. Currently AWS by Amazon dominates and that poses a risk. According to tech analysis firm Gartner’s latest numbers, the top five cloud providers currently account for 80% of the market, with Amazon holding a 41% share and Azure representing nearly 20% of the market. The main issue here lies in the concentration of major players that dominate the cloud market. In future, there may be a need to consider a multi-cloud strategy to avoid over reliance on one single provider. All of these efforts are necessary if businesses are to build digital entities that avoid the types of downtime we’ve seen recently. If nothing is done to address this issue we are likely to have the data scientists who are sitting around the world and servicing SA businesses.