Africa’s first chair in digital business will be established at the Wits Business School through an initial five-year funding commitment from Telkom.
This is in line with leading academic institutions around the world where the digital aspect of business is becoming an essential part of business studies.
“This chair is a first for South Africa and the continent and will ensure that as a business school located in the economic heart of Africa, we are at the forefront of delivering important research and relevant programmes that are essential for doing business in today’s digitised world,” says Professor Steve Bluen, head of the Wits Business School.
“The impact of the chair is significant. Not only will it contribute to the economy by developing essential skills that will boost employment and encourage start-ups, but it responds directly to the science, technology and innovation strategy adopted by the African Union in 2014 that aims to reposition the continent as a collection of technology-driven economies, ensuring the sustainable growth of the countries within.”
The rapid development of information and communication technologies around the world and across the continent means that these days the internet is a key part of most businesses. Nearly every company or institution has online operations and many businesses now operate solely online.
Wits Business School also plans to conduct research in the field of digital business in Africa, and advance awareness of digital business and readiness by engaging with business, government and communities.
“A digital business removes the barriers of time and distance, creating local jobs that can compete in a global market,” says Professor Chris van der Hoven, academic director at the Wits Business School. “As we stand on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, business persons must understand the challenges, opportunities and risks of digital business, and be able to develop and implement digital business strategies, including digital management, web and data analytics and digital marketing in order to remain competitive locally and globally.”
Potential future developments include the Wits Business School offering a Master of Management in Digital Business, and the establishment of a Centre for Digital Business.
Sipho Maseko, group chief executive at Telkom, says the availability of studies in digital business is an essential development for Africa and South Africa.
“Most businesses are, to an ever-increasing extent, online business. The next generation of business people will be even more exposed to new technologies, along with the threats and opportunities of digital disruption. Unless digital business is part of the business model, companies won’t survive.
“The old analogue approach is history. Digitalisation is helping companies achieve their business goals in a new real-time and information-rich marketplace. This is the world our young people are entering.”
Maseko says the collaboration with the Wits Business School will also help to identify and develop black South African and African talent in the field of digital business.
Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of Wits University, comments: “The Telkom Chair is a welcome addition to Wits’ suite of data science and big data courses and research, as well as to our new innovation hub, the Tshimologong Precinct, in Braamfontein. The development of a successful technology ecosystem is crucial to economic growth and international competitiveness, and I have no doubt that these cutting edge offerings will be central to this.”
In addition to its initial R32,7-million funding over five years, Telkom will create a black internship programme for Wits Business School students. Telkom would also offer free digital business training to its own staff, and particularly executives studying for a master’s degree in digital business.