Today is the opening of the annual Gartner Africa Symposium held annually at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). Rene Jacobs, the Managing Director of Gartner Africa welcomed over 1200 delegates to this 3-day tech-fest. The conference runs in parallel to the with an expo from technology vendors. We have met before at the Computer Society’s annual IT Personality of the Year award, for which Gartner is a partner. There is over 1,200 business and IT leaders at the Symposium.

The theme of this year’s conference is about Leadership. According to a Gartner survey, over 70% of CIO’s felt they do not have the right skills. South Africa is still bleeding from the technology brain drain. You have to get involved in education, not just IT education, but business education. She quoted Bill Gates’s Creative Capitalism speech from the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. He said the most powerful innovation happens when a company uses its top talent to solve problems for the impoverished. Government, business and non-profits can work together to stretch the market forces and eventually doing so, reduces inequalities in the world. Rene asked everyone in the audience to imagine the impact of each company adopting a school to help them improve output. To imagine each individual sponsoring a child from grade 1 -12, even up to tertiary level. What difference would that make in terms of South Africa’s skills shortage. She quoted another Gartner estimate, that IT industry is responsible for 2% of the carbon emissions, the same as the airline industry

Peter Sondergaard, Cape Town South AfricaThe rockstar analyst, Peter Sondergaard, head of Gartner Research Worldwide took the stage next like he was rallying the troops. He highlighted a few of the key issues to be discussed over the next 3 days including:

Workforce: the people required will not be in the organistion. Skills will be needed and demand will continue outstrip supply in the technology industry.  From now to 2010 qualified IT professionals who also have very good experience in business will be in an extreme short supply worldwide. And all this is the result of a vacuum in IT leaderships skills as more and more people from the baby boom generation leaves the organisations. When companies who opt for outsourcing or offshoring, they inadvertently create a draining of leaders in their organisation because those people running the IT systems are not staff who can be groomed for leadership. He said you have to define what talent means for your organisation and begin to capitalise on resources worldwide. This is essentially embracing the flat world theories as described by A call that was echoed by subsequent speakers is that to get involved in Education. Think outside the box, way outside the box. Make IT attractive for digital natives. Act now before it’s too late. Quality of IT projects will decline: IT organisation will suffer lack of leadership talent.

Green IT is the other key issue with Gartner:

  1. Reconsider Green-IT’s importance. Managing carbon tracking inside and outside the organisation.
  2. Measuring “green” or carbon cost per transaction.

Peter handed over to the conference’s chairperson, Debra Logan, another distinguised analyst. She said IT and growth is tied together very strongly. A year ago there was a positive outlook for the world and the  there was an especially positive outlook for emerging economies like South Africa. Since 2007 there have been several adverse events in the world: sub-prime crises in USA, the earth quake in China, electricity problem in South Africa earlier this year. South Africa still has a growth rate of 4.1%  and it’s still a growing and vibrant economy. Another catch-phrase that many of the analysts kept repeating is the Two Speed economy globally and in South Africa: 71% of South Africans still believe we can successfully host 2010 Soccer Worldcup. There is more investment happening in South Africa compared to BRIC countries…