Interview: Asher Bohbot
To what extent do you see demand for cloud services taking off among businesses in South Africa?
ASHER BOHBOT: As far as large enterprises are concerned, the biggest growth area over the past few years has been in ICT outsourcing, followed by cloud computing. Even so, the uptake on cloud services has remained rather slow as clients continue to experiment with certain computing workloads in the cloud. Banks have taken most readily of all to the cloud. Other industries, with less robust regulation than banking, do not yet have a clear process to follow.
For them, taking up the cloud ends up becoming more of a managerial decision driven by the availability of infrastructure. Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular have taken advantage of the cloud. Business applications have been both complex and expensive for them to implement, but the emergence of cloud solutions has made it cheaper to use these on a subscription basis. For example, applications to do with human resources, customer resource management and procurement solutions have been especially popular.
An interesting development that may lead some firms to integrate their entire business system with the cloud is the country’s ongoing electricity shortage. Some firms are reluctant to maintain diesel generators for servers during periods of load-shedding. Another driver of cloud adoption on the African continent is the difficulty of securing a reliable hardware supply chain. Going straight to the cloud would allow businesses to leapfrog these challenges.
In the longer term, the combination of cloud services and outsourcing will be effective, particularly with regards to private and hybrid cloud solutions. Previously, the cloud had been inhibited by the lack of connectivity infrastructure, but this has improved, especially in metropolitan areas. However, connection costs remain too expensive at present, preventing the roll-out of fibre-optic internet to businesses.
How well positioned is South Africa as a global business process outsourcing (BPO) centre, and what obstacles remain to its development?
BOHBOT: South Africa is beginning to position itself well to become a global business process outsourcing (BPO) centre of choice. The government has really put a lot of effort into establishing the industry and has begun to put in place some reasonably lucrative incentives, especially to set them up in Cape Town.
We need to market ourselves more actively on a global basis, given the many advantages we possess, such as a population that speaks English with a neutral accent, as well as our geographical location in the same time zone as Europe. However, to be effectively mobilised, the private sector must get more involved.
BPO remains limited in South Africa, even though the country shares the same characteristics that helped fuel the expansion of BPO in India. Additionally, South Africa looks set to become a more cost-effective proposition for investors, as a weaker rand means that calls will become accordingly cheaper and call centres can become more efficient.
How can technology be used to improve the government’s public delivery system?
BOHBOT: Technology can be leveraged, not only to improve the performance of individual private businesses, but also to benefit society as a whole, through implementing e-Government in all public sector activities. Government work is process driven and technology can transform the way the government interacts with its citizens, improving service delivery and enhancing social and economic development.
Placing all public services online, for example, would be a step in the right direction, as with the South African Revenue Service. Encouragingly, of late, the public sector has increased its investment in technology through infrastructure and software applications, as well as enhancing transparency and service delivery.
You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free.
Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.
If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.