An Innovative Future

An Innovative Future

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Like death and taxes there is another certainty in life: the digital media sphere as it stands this very minute, will be different tomorrow and have evolved a little more the day after that. It’s not easy keeping up, which is why media agencies and businesses are partnering with other organisations and NGOs to share, spread knowledge, inspire and empower youngsters to become leaders in the digital arena.

One of the leading digital empowerment initiatives at the moment is Google’s Umbono Programme which I recently became involved in as a mentor.

The Umbono Programme runs 6-month courses during which participants are provided the opportunity to formally get their ideas off the ground or to prepare their existing businesses for their next round of funding. The goal is to ensure that participants are pitch-ready and have a business plan in place by the end of the programme.

How it works

As a team project, seed capital is provided and a customised schedule is drafted with each team upon induction; as well as furnished office space and bandwidth for the duration of the programme and a collaborative space for all teams which provides a forum for mutual support, idea sharing and tech talks.

In the increasingly tough South African job market, companies are now looking for specialised skills sets that didn’t exist ten years ago, five years ago and – in some instances – even one year ago. Jobs like social media managers fall within those parameters of not being around just a few years ago. As pioneers in the digital industry it is our responsibility to equip these youngsters with knowledge and prepare them for their roles as the digital leaders of tomorrow.

More and more positions, such as user interface managers, user experience designers and digital innovators and strategists are dominating the local job sections. I firmly believe that the South African workforce is now catching up to the rise of the technologists.

These technologists are not only a sign of the changing structure of agencies but are also a catalyst for change, in the way brands and customers interact, and this is where initiatives such as Umbono is stepping in to help youngsters ride the new wave of tech.

Encouraging innovation

A similar initiative is the ‘Code Jam’ collaboration between the JSE-listed IT services company Gijima and the University of Western Cape, which aims to encourage and support students to be innovative, develop entrepreneurial skills, empower themselves and become leaders in the ever-growing trend of mobility.

Students – not necessarily developers – are invited to submit innovative app ideas to the portal that will be expanded and rated by the Code Jam community. This crowd-sourcing model encourages collaboration and the development of top-notch ideas. The best of these are then taken forward and developed for Apple’s mobile products.

The way I see it, the continuing growth of the digital industry as it pertains to being relevant to the world of commerce, not only calls for but demands a change in skills sets, and these skill sets need to be elevated to a quality that will help put South Africa on the digital world stage.

Such mentoring and support spells future success, not only for those directly involved and the companies that benefit from the results, but also the South Africa digital industry as a whole. Companies need to step up and do whatever they can to harness the skills of our youth and help create a sustainable and bright future for Digital in SA.

Tim Bishop
Tim Bishop spearheaded Prezence Digital UK’s expansion into South Africa in 2002 and is currently the company’s CTO. With more than 18 years in the online and mobile industry, his focus is 'mobile for the masses' and he has been instrumental in high profile mobile web and application developments, brand strategy and enhanced user experiences throughout Africa.