ICT-Works stakes its future on innovation

“The ICT industry is not realising its full potential as an engine of economic growth, job creation and black empowerment,” says Sindile Ncala, Managing Executive: Public Sector at ICT-Works.

She believes this is because the local industry is not placing enough emphasis on innovation, and particularly in developing its own intellectual property.

“The ICT industry has rightly been identified as a job creator and engine of empowerment in the South African economy, as witnessed by the industry’s compact with government in 2011 to create 1m jobs and achieve 100 percent broadband penetration by 2020,” says Ncala.

“While there has been progress and numbers of new, black-owned ICT companies have been launched, many have not lasted for very long. Overall, I think the industry hasn’t created the number of jobs it could have,” she adds.

Ncala argues that much of the local industry is uncompetitive because too many companies take the easy option of simply reselling technology and solutions that are essentially developed overseas. When times are good, this strategy can pay off but it always means that the company is “just another reseller,” making it vulnerable to competitors with better ideas.

“For as long as the majority of our ICT industry is involved purely in reselling, it will not make the contribution to the country’s economic development it could,” she warns.

The majority of the black-owned ICT companies that have sprung up over the years have tended to follow the same reseller model. Many of them have failed because they have become over-reliant on government business, and thus vulnerable to late payment or non-award of a tender. Ncala believes it is very important for black start-ups to diversify their businesses from the beginning.

“It’s a question of not having all your eggs in one basket,” says Ncala, adding that this is easier said than done.

“Breaking into the private sector as a black-owned company is particularly difficult, and you have to keep proving yourself,” she says.

Ncala’s observations are based on her experience as one of the shareholders in ICT-Works, which was founded in 1999 by CEO Xoliswa Kakana—the other shareholder is Maggy Sibiya, the COO. The fact that the company is owned by black women is often noted but, says Ncala, it would rather be known for the lasting contribution it has made to building up a truly innovative South African ICT industry.

Recipe for success

With a track record spanning some 16 years, the company can truly be said to be making headway in achieving its goals. It has managed to survive, and even to prosper, because of a sustained focus on governance and management, on building up the right calibre of human resources, and through a sustained focus on innovation.

Governance and management are necessarily the bedrock of any successful company—without them, companies will never be able to survive hard times, and will not make decisions with the long term in mind. This can mean taking what can seem to be the harder route, in order to build a pipeline of future business. Following this thinking, ICT-Works has been able to strike a balance between the public and private sectors; and between reselling and implementing leading technologies and developing its own solutions.

The second success driver is ICT-Works’ fundamental belief that its success is built on the quality of its people. Consequently, Ncala says the company has developed an integrated, proactive talent management strategy.

“People ultimately buy from, and trust, other people. For us, then, it’s critical not only that we attract and retain people with the right skills and attitude, but that we also provide our existing staff with clear opportunities to grow within the company—we want our people to see us as the employer of choice,” says Ncala.

Creating the right corporate culture is part of this mix, with entrepreneurial flair a key component. Another important element is providing opportunities for further learning, both in the technical and management areas. The company has even launched its own training academy, Akuwa Akili (kiSwahili for ‘Be intelligent, be prosperous.’)

Then there’s the question of innovation, which Ncala sees as the basis of true competitive differentiation and sustained success.

“Early on, we took a decision as management that we were going to pursue a course of building up our own intellectual property because that’s what will set us apart,” says Ncala.

“We’ve actively gone out and looked for projects that would allow us to do so, even though that made things harder for us in the short term. We have also been willing to work alongside bigger, more established companies as a junior partner in order to build our credentials,” she adds.

Tasting the fruits

Hard work and a commitment to results over the years have enabled ICT-Works to participate in many of the country’s flagship ICT projects. One such project is the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS,) which falls under National Treasury.

Ncala explains that ICT-Works was responsible for the supply chain management portion of the IFMS, which aims to curb unauthorised expenditure, eliminate waste, reduce corruption and enhance efficiency across the public sector.

The company designed and implemented an innovative, user-friendly and Web-based solution built on Oracle, covering the entire supply chain lifecycle, from supplier management to payment and invoice management; and from contract, bid and quotation management to asset and inventory management.

The success of ICT-Works’ IFMS solution led to a request from the Kenyan Finance Ministry to customise the solution for its specific needs.

“This clearly shows how investing in your own intellectual property positions you for repeat business,” says Ncala.

Another important project has been ICT-Works’ involvement in the City of Cape Town’s MyCiti transport initiative. For this project, ICT-Works developed an integrated fare collection system, which it will manage for seven years. Remarkably, the system was the first fare-management system in the world to be accredited by EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa), the leading global payment standard. The project received an award from MasterCard for Best Bank Card Ticketing Scheme.

“Although the private sector doesn’t have the focus on encouraging empowerment that government has, we believe that by putting our heads down and delivering innovative solutions that do the job, such as we did with MyCiti, we will build up a good client base, to do that, it’s critical that you are able to work well with partners, such as we did with Absa and Vix on the MyCiti project—but then we have always believed that success is not a zero-sum game: you will be successful if your employees and business partners benefit, and your clients are happy,” says Ncala.

Cape Business News. Click here to view the original article

 

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ICT-Works stakes its future on innovation

The ICT industry is not realising its full potential as an engine of economic growth, job creation and black empowerment, says Sindile Ncala, Managing Executive: Public Sector at ICT-Works. She believes this is because the local industry is not placing enough emphasis on innovation, and particularly in developing its own intellectual property.

“The ICT industry has rightly been identified as a job creator and engine of empowerment in the South African economy, as witnessed by the industry’s compact with government in 2011 to create 1 million jobs and achieve 100 percent broadband penetration by 2020,” says Ncala. “While there has been progress and numbers of new, black-owned ICT companies have been launched, many have not lasted for very long. Overall, I think the industry hasn’t created the number of jobs it could have.”

Ncala argues that much of the local industry is uncompetitive because too many companies take the easy option of simply reselling technology and solutions that are essentially developed overseas. When times are good, this strategy can pay off but it always means that the company is “just another reseller”, making it vulnerable to competitors with better ideas.

“For as long as the majority of our ICT industry is involved purely in reselling, it will not make the contribution to the country’s economic development it could,” she warns.

The majority of the black-owned ICT companies that have sprung up over the years have tended to follow the same reseller model. Many of them have failed because they have become over-reliant on government business, and thus vulnerable to late payment or non-award of a tender. It is very important for black start-ups to diversify their businesses from the beginning, Ncala believes.

“It’s a question of not having all your eggs in one basket,” Ncala says, adding that this is easier said than done. “Breaking into the private sector as a black-owned company is particularly difficult, and you have to keep proving yourself.”

Ncala’s observations are based on her experience as one of the shareholders in ICT-Works, which was founded in 1999 by CEO Xoliswa Kakana—the other shareholder is Maggy Sibiya, the COO. The fact that the company is owned by black women is often noted but, says Ncala, it would rather be known for the lasting contribution it has made to building up a truly innovative South African ICT industry.

Recipe for success

With a track record spanning some 16 years, the company can truly be said to be making headway in achieving its goals. It has managed to survive, and even to prosper, because of a sustained focus on governance and management, on building up the right calibre of human resources, and through a sustained focus on innovation.

Governance and management are necessarily the bedrock of any successful company—without them, companies will never be able to survive hard times, and will not make decisions with the long term in mind. This can mean taking what can seem to be the harder route, in order to build a pipeline of future business. Following this thinking, ICT-Works has been able to strike a balance between the public and private sectors; and between reselling and implementing leading technologies and developing its own solutions.

The second success driver is ICT-Works’ fundamental belief that its success is built on the quality of its people. Consequently, Ncala says, the company has developed an integrated, proactive talent management strategy.

“People ultimately buy from, and trust, other people,” Ncala affirms. “For us, then, it’s critical not only that we attract and retain people with the right skills and attitude, but that we also provide our existing staff with clear opportunities to grow within the company—we want our people to see us as the employer of choice.”

Creating the right corporate culture is part of this mix, with entrepreneurial flair a key component. Another important element is providing opportunities for further learning, both in the technical and management areas. The company has even launched its own training academy, Akuwa Akili (kiSwahili for “Be intelligent, be prosperous”).

Then there’s the question of innovation, which Ncala sees as the basis of true competitive differentiation and sustained success.

“Early on, we took a decision as management that we were going to pursue a course of building up our own intellectual property because that’s what will set us apart,” says Ncala. “We’ve actively gone out and looked for projects that would allow us to do so, even though that made things harder for us in the short term. We have also been willing to work alongside bigger, more established companies as a junior partner in order to build our credentials.”

Tasting the fruits

Hard work and a commitment to results over the years have enabled ICT-Works to participate in many of the country’s flagship ICT projects. One such project is the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), which falls under National Treasury. Ncala explains that ICT-Works was responsible for the supply chain management portion of the IFMS, which aims to curb unauthorised expenditure, eliminate waste, reduce corruption and enhance efficiency across the public sector. The company designed and implemented an innovative, user-friendly and Web-based solution built on Oracle, covering the entire supply chain lifecycle, from supplier management to payment and invoice management; and from contract, bid and quotation management to asset and inventory management.

The success of ICT-Works’ IFMS solution led to a request from the Kenyan Finance Ministry to customise the solution for its specific needs.

“This clearly shows how investing in your own intellectual property positions you for repeat business,” Ncala notes.

Another important project has been ICT-Works’ involvement in the City of Cape Town’s MyCiti transport initiative. For this project, ICT-Works developed an integrated fare collection system, which it will manage for seven years. Remarkably, the system was the first fare-management system in the world to be accredited by EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa), the leading global payment standard. The project received an award from MasterCard for Best Bank Card Ticketing Scheme.

“Although the private sector doesn’t have the focus on encouraging empowerment that government has, we believe that by putting our heads down and delivering innovative solutions that do the job, such as we did with MyCiti, we will build up a good client base,” Ncala says. “To do that, it’s critical that you are able to work well with partners, such as we did with Absa and Vix on the MyCiti project—but then we have always believed that success is not a zero-sum game: you will be successful if your employees and business partners benefit, and your clients are happy.”

SA Leader. Click here to view the original article

Male-oriented networking among challenges faced by female IT executives

Many advocate for the involvement of women in all industries and the information and communication technology sector is no different. But there are few people who speak about the challenges that lie ahead once you’ve cracked the nod.

The ICT Works management spoke about these issues candidly at their networking session in Sandhurst‚ north of Johannesburg‚ on Wednesday.

ICT works is a 100 percent black-women-owned‚ founded and managed company based in Johannesburg.

COO Maggy Sibiya said that race-based assumptions about the management and capability of the company prove to be their biggest challenge. This has resulted in them being offered smaller contracts as well as partnerships with other firms in order for those companies to meet their corporate social investment goals‚ she said.

Xoliswa Kakana‚ CEO of ICT Works‚ said that they often find that certain companies have already formed partnerships that they cling to and this makes it harder to outsource certain work on projects.

According to Kakana‚ this also contributes to ICT Works missing out on contracts or having to work much harder than everyone else to get them because they fall outside of the trust circles that people have formed.

Public Sector Director for ICT Works Sindile Ncala spoke about having to network in predominantly male environments. The kind of places that she says society still frowns upon women for being in – such as golf courses and whiskey bars.

RDM News Wire. Click here to view the original article

Maggy Sibiya breaks the IT mould

The chief operating officer at the all-black- and all-female-owned ICT-Works wants more women involved in South Africa’s IT sector. By Duncan McLeod.

Maggy Sibiya tells me she is relieved when I arrive at her office in Rivonia in Johannesburg without a camera. The ICT-Works chief operating officer says she is a “behind the scenes type of person” and only meets with the media because her PR team tells her to. She declares she’s “nervous” about the interview.

But Sibiya, who is co-owner in ICT-Works — along with CEO Xoliswa Kakana and public sector head Sindile Ncala — should probably get used to being in the spotlight.

Why? Because the all-black- and all-female-owned ICT-Works is starting to gain real attention in South Africa’s IT industry, having won key contracts with clients such as the City of Cape Town and the Coega Industrial Development Zone in Port Elizabeth.

Sibiya was born in Moretele in the old Bophuthatswana — now North West — but grew up in Mpumalanga and Soweto, where she went to school.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue as a career, but while at school had been encouraged by a nongovernmental organisation called Protec, which actively sought children from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into the technology and engineering fields, to consider a career in IT. Protec specifically targeted children that showed an aptitude for mathematics and science, she says.

Sibiya attended Saturday classes, where she was exposed to the technology and engineering fields. “They took us on vocational trips during school holidays. This opened my eyes to a different world, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do.”

What she did know was that she didn’t want to do something “girly” and wanted to challenge herself.

She eventually decided to study computer data processing, even though at that point she had never touched a computer in her life. “It sounded like something that would challenge me. That’s how I got into the IT industry.”

One thing led to another, and Sibiya joined IBM as an intern in the late 1980s. She was able to move out of programming, which she didn’t enjoy, and into a broader information systems and project management role. She gained invaluable experience.

She spent eight years at IBM, before taking up a role at Standard Bank looking after the portfolio of commercial banking systems for Africa. It was at the bank that she met business partner Ncala. “We were the only two black female senior managers so we kind of stuck with each other.”

Eventually, after a few years in the banking environment, they joined Kakana at ICT-Works, where she has held many roles since 2005.

“We went after opportunities where doors opened, and that was mostly in the public sector at first,” she recalls. “As we grew and gained confidence in the industry, we started getting business from the private sector. MTN was one of our first clients.”

A big break came when ICT-Works partnered with Deloitte for a project at the Coega Industrial Development Zone in Port Elizabeth.

“We were an Oracle partner, doing a lot of advisory work. Coega had a vision of how they wanted to see real participation of a [black economic empowerment] partner. The contract was structured so that halfway through it, after 18 months, ICT-Works took the lead from Deloitte.”

The project required an end-to-end implementation of an Oracle enterprise resource planning system, which included being a strategic implementation partner to Coega, looking after all of their projects. “ICT-Works stepped up to the plate and a year and a half later we took over. Coega is still our client. It was really our launching pad.”

Today, ICT-Works, which employs over 100 permanent staff, offers project management-type IT work to a range of clients in the public and private sectors. It remains an Oracle partner, only now it has “platinum” status, the highest level Oracle affords its implementation partners.

Its flagship project now is an automated — and award-winning — fare collection system developed for the MyCiTi bus network in Cape Town.

It developed an end-to-end project for issuing EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa-compliant cards to commuters to implementing gates for access into the stations. It’s built the system used to collect fares on the buses and runs the back office, reconciling revenue back into the city’s SAP system.

“The first phase is the bus rapid transport network, but the vision for the City of Cape Town is for an integrated rapid transport system.”

Another big project win was with national government, for the supply chain component of its huge integrated financial management system. “On the back of that, we built a solid supply chain core, with specialised skills. The government of Kenya went out on tender for a similar solution, and we won that work.”

Sibiya says ICT-Works focuses a lot of attention on trying to bring female skills into the traditionally male-dominated IT sector. More than half its staff are women, and it works with tertiary education institutions to help bring more women into the sector.

Have the three women leading the company considered selling? “There are always people knocking at the door,” says Sibiya. “One never knows when the right opportunity will come along. Right now, though, we’re still trying to grow the business.”

When not focusing on the IT world, Sibiya and her husband of the past 23 years spend their time on church work. Through Soweto’s Zoé Bible Church, which has branches around the country, she does active work in Ivory Park, Olievenhoutbosch and, more recently, in the Midrand area.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media Click here to view the original article

Breaking the mould to make CSI count

For many companies, corporate social investment remains just a box to be ticked for the annual Integrated Report. But for a growing minority of companies, corporate social investment is seen as an extension of the company’s business activities and culture. One such company is ICT-Works, a company 100-percent owned by black women.

“We understand that socio-economic development isn’t just about money, it’s about changing mindsets and empowering people with skills—that’s the foundation of our own success,” says Maggy Sibiya, Chief Operations Officer at ICT-Works. “Our company is dedicated to using technology to solve Africa’s challenges, and we apply this approach to our corporate social investment as well.”

Sibiya says that because there is an organic connection between the company’s daily business and its work with disadvantaged people, ICT-Works staff members are instrumental in identifying suitable organisations. They also invest their own time in the projects.

For example, when a donation of computers is made to an organisation, ICT-Works employees often take the time to install the equipment and instruct the beneficiaries in how to use the equipment effectively, rather than outsourcing these functions.

“It’s all about people helping people, and building relationships,” observes Sibiya. “These relationships can be powerful catalysts for changing mindsets and sparking long-term change, which is really what we are after.”

Of course, given ICT-Works’ history and profile, projects that help women enter the technology industry have a special resonance. One such is the Future of the African Daughter (FOTAD) project, which aims to change the lives of ordinary girls in townships and rural areas by providing maths, science, ICT and life skills, complemented by leadership training. Numerous studies have shown that investing in women creates a ripple effect because of their propensity to invest in the education of their own families.

Another key principle of ICT-Works’ social-investment agenda is to provide what the non-profit organisations themselves identify as their need. Thus, for example, when long-standing partner Thutukani Centre, which looks after orphans and vulnerable children in Ivory Park, indicated it needed a large fridge this year, ICT-Works was happy to help. Similarly, Bathabeleng Childrens’ Home has received a printer and laptop as well as a fridge, groceries and blankets in previous years.

Another ongoing partnership is with Agang Sechaba, an organisation founded and led by professional women that focuses on child-headed households, orphanages and unemployed women. Having provided basic ICT training for 10 beneficiaries of Agang Sechaba’s programmes last year, ICT-Works will step that up a notch with advanced skills for 20 students this year.

“Building close relationships with beneficiaries’ means that over time we become trusted partners, and thus hopefully we can really help them to achieve their goals—that’s critical,” concludes Sibiya. “It’s not only about what we want to do, but what they need. In that sense, they are like customers for us!” Click here to view the original article

Technology grows SME success

Margaret Sibiya, chief operations officer (COO) of ICT-Works, talks about the common pitfalls facing small and medium businesses on the continent, and provides insights on how technology can overcome this.

Over the last two decades, the positive impact of SMEs on the economies of South Africa and Africa as a whole has grown rapidly. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly being recognised as productive drivers of economic growth and development for African countries. Although many small businesses are growing into strong mid-sized enterprises, some fail to grow and exist month-to-month with no assurance of a healthy long-term future.

The reality is that technology and software plays an imperative role to ensure the growth of any business. Here are some of the most common pitfalls facing SMEs with suggestions on how best to overcome them.

Basing decision-making on information
The key objective of business owners today is to ensure that they grow their business and make the right decisions. This seems simple enough, but for most SMEs, obtaining the information that will enable them to make robust decisions which will lead them on the path to growth is extremely difficult.
Instead, SME owners tend to make decisions on gut feel, assumptions, or – at best – unstructured information. This lack of solid information to base decisions on is, without a doubt, the most common problem facing SMEs today.

I advise all SMEs, no matter their size or the stage of growth they’re in, to invest in software and technology that will allow them to have robust and relevant information at the tips of their fingers whenever they need it. Many businesses stay small and informal and use simple technology that does not require great use of national infrastructure. Business owners have to ensure that they can measure, manage and control their information, and the easiest and most efficient way to do this is through the right software that does it for them, to ensure transparency and accuracy.

Technology has advanced such that SMEs do not need to invest in expensive infrastructure, but rather take advantage of new technologies like applications as a service, to reduce the prohibitive total cost of ownership in technology.

Businesses need to ensure improved quality of information so that the decisions they take every day will have a greater effect on their business outcomes. There’s no better way to run a business than getting the intelligence right.

Achieving operational excellence
By their very nature, SMEs focus on outputs rather than operations. Small business owners usually do whatever they need to do to get the orders in, with little capacity left for the optimisation of operations.

The right technology and software represents a huge opportunity for innovation and competitive differentiators. However, in an effort to save money, companies often string together a number of solutions which can result in a set of disconnected processes. What would seem to be a one-time effort becomes an on-going problem as different development tools are updated constantly.

To overcome this and save money, it is important that SMEs invest in the seamless end-to-end technology and software as much as possible, to ensure optimal operational excellence.

Managing money
SMEs around the globe tend to be inept at financial management. New start-ups are particularly vulnerable to this, and a lack of solid financial management, which includes the sourcing of funds to operate the business, and this has been the death knells for many new SMEs. Small business owners tend to focus on securing deals at all costs, disregarding payment terms that aren’t to their advantage for the sake of making their new customer happy.

The solution is for SMEs to agree on payment terms and a collections policy that meets their needs prior to entering into agreements with customers. These policies can change as the business grows and becomes more liquid, but it is imperative for start-ups to manage their collections in a way that maximises their cash flow – even if this is at the expense of a few customers who refuse to adhere to strict payment terms. Being slack on money management is a sure-fire way to go out of business quickly.

Conclusion
If SMEs are conscious of the common problems raised above and address them head on, there is a high success rate for a turnaround in growth and profitability. As a parting shot, it’s worth noting that there’s a big difference between running a successful business and being self-employed. The points outlined here in are aimed at lifting those SMEs that want to grow their business to greater heights. Click here to view the original article

South Africa: Being black and female in tech

As a young girl growing up in rural Eastern Cape, Xoliswa Kakana’s daily dawn-to-sunset routine included herding her grandmother’s sheep across village plains. She recounts how foreign technology used to be. I am even a little taken aback as she recalls that she used to join a chorus of children shouting after every passing airplane to “bring us something sweet” upon its return.

Fast forward a few decades… and not only has Kakana become a developer of a variety of technologies, she is also a noteworthy leader within South Africa’s ICT industry. In fact, she heads award-winning, ICT-Works as Executive Chair and group CEO, a company directed by a team of black female executives.

There is no question about the shortage of women in South African tech. Yet fewer still are black. Having succeeded in breaking down the racial-gender walls, Kakana shares her experiences with the hope of encouraging other aspiring black women in the industry.

What inspired you to choose a career in ICT?

As a high school student in the 80s I came across an article about a Japanese woman engineer who was also an astronaut. The story stuck with me and opened my eyes to the possibilities of technology and the heights a person could reach using it. Back then, I enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked. One of my triumphs was figuring out how to make calls on a locked phone. This laid the foundation for my interest in engineering and electronics. I studied Electronic Engineering, at the cusp of the talk about the ‘information superhighway’ and how it would change the way we live, work and conduct business.  The possibilities were unlimited and I decided that I wanted to be one of the drivers of this change.

Tell us about your experiences as a black woman in the ICT sector.

During the time that I started my career, being a black woman meant that I was on the lowest rung of the ladder and had to work ten times harder to make my work appreciated and my voice heard. I knew I had to prove myself again and again, before I could be taken seriously. I did this by keeping abreast with the latest technology and learning through every opportunity afforded to me, just so that I could be seen as average compared to the men in the industry. I still experience this today in business meetings, in our boardrooms, even in our teams, where misconceptions about women in the industry are still prevalent. Being underestimated is the norm but it just makes me more determined to succeed.

Your company, ICT-Works, was established in 1999 and is now a highly distinguished business. What was the industry’s response to your black female-owned company back then?

ICT-Works was founded in the advent of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment), which afforded us a chance in the public sector. As individuals we were emboldened to step into the sector because of this opportunity – we can be considered as a BEE success story.  The start was really very difficult. The private sector being particularly hard to penetrate. We were perceived as a ‘BEE company’ rather than a technology company.

 

How did you cope with such criticism? 

We have persevered. We have ensured that every contract we sign gets delivered on, even when it becomes unprofitable. This is the turning point and indeed we are beginning to be taken seriously. Our brand is continuously getting stronger, every day. We take up each opportunity with zest and drive for excellence. It is our aim to be the leading systems developer and integrator in this country and continent.

Would you says Black Economic Empowerment has worked effectively for your business?

It has, indeed. We have received a lot of opportunities because of BEE. It has given us the opportunity to prove ourselves, where without BEE there would have been none. There have of course been some unintended consequences, which I believe when addressed, will get the country to achieve its transformation imperatives.

What was the startup phase like for you in terms of capital? What advice would you offer tech startups?

Cash flow was the greatest challenge so I would advise every aspiring entrepreneur to really plan diligently. That includes, planning startup capital and finding committed people who complement your skills, as you can never do it all on your own. Business is brutal and hard, so surround yourself with people who will give you lots of financial support and advice.

Are there enough avenues for mentorship within the tech industry for aspiring black females in tech?

Not as much as there should be but definitely better than 14 years ago, thanks to the existence of companies like ICT-Works. Our reputation and success has encouraged other black women to start up and seek out opportunities in the sector.  We have been able to offer mentorship and growth to some of these women. In 2002 we set up a Woman in ICT forum which was unfortunately later dissolved.

What about support from fellow black women in ICT? 

Interesting that you ask that question, because I am not able to name a single woman. It is a huge let down. I wonder why this is the case as we have had some [black] women leadership and decision making positions, but I am not able to point to any support.  Actually, as I look back, I find that it is mainly black males who have given us support and encouragement.  Because of the space we currently occupy in the industry we have become the support for other fledgling, black woman-owned businesses in the sector, a role we are proud to fill.

Some people have attributed the lack of black female professionals in ICT to the group’s own lack of confidence while others believe the industry lacks confidence in their potential thus failing to afford them opportunities. What are your views on this?

This challenge begins at school level, where Math and Science are made to look difficult, especially amongst girls. We need to start by demystifying the sciences. As an engineering student, I was said to be this ‘brilliant’ one. This is discouraging for most girls.  I was amazed to find out I was one of only 5% of female engineering students at a university in Germany. Entering the work environment was even more trying as I found I would be one of very few women in teams, and usually, the only black woman.  Social interaction too becomes difficult as relationships get strengthened on the golf course, at the bar etc. Being female and having a family, further contributes to these challenges. As a black woman, you need to be deliberate and to commit to making it. [Success] cannot happen just by chance.

Has your business competition been largely across racial lines or is there a balance? How have you handled it?

This is a highly competitive sector. We’ve had to make sure that we are at least 10 times better that the next competitor in all our endeavors. In South Africa, business relies on relationships and middle managers are the decision-makers. This is one of the challenges we’ve had to address, as a majority of middle managers in this country are still white males, so we’ve had to be diverse in our recruitment process so as to be able engage with these decision makers and develop the necessary relationships.

To what do you owe ICT-Works’ success?

Our belief is that technology is an enabler, we pride ourselves in developing solutions that seek to solve the problems we are facing in South Africa and the continent, while still being internationally competitive and relevant. As an example, our e-Procurem-Procure and Supply Chain Managementproducts have been specifically developed to address procurement issues in our municipalities and at provincial and government levels. These address some vital African needs and have been piloted in [other] parts of the continent. We do not only innovate through products, but we continue to seek innovative ways of doing business and addressing our own challenges. We contribute to sector transformation, and always try to find ways of creating jobs and optimizing the way we work.

What’s next for ICT-Works?

Our strategy entails focused profitable growth which we are addressing through interventions such as developing more solutions that are based on our own IP as well as venturing into the private sector across the continent. We really do see ourselves as a corporate citizen, seeking to contribute to our country’s development. Click here to view the original article