With recent statistics reflecting that at least 115 000 additional IT jobs will be required in the lead up to the 2010 World Soccer Club – and no hope in sight of the country injecting anywhere near these kind of numbers – overall communications at the event could be compromised.
This is according to Karen Geldenhuys, MD of ICT-focused recruitment company, who says "not much attention" had been paid to this skills shortage.
"Billions of people will be watching the event, and tens of thousands of people will be attending. The seamless functioning of technology is going to be critical. This anticipated skills shortag is a real worry," she says.
Geldenhuys says the country is going to require additional people with PC skills, software and hardware support skills – as well as networking skills.
This is corroborated by independent research on the demands for skills to build and operate IT networks across the Middle East and Africa by IDC, which was commissioned by Cisco.
"The report reveals that last year alone there was a shortage of skills of 75 500," says Geldenhuys. "More importantly, these skills are highly specialised in the area of ICT – in particularly in South Africa."
The report further warns that by 2009 these skills will exceed supply by 24%, holding back economic growth significantly. The situation is also more extreme in "specific technology areas".
The report said that the shortfall between supply and demand in advanced networking technology skills will be 30% by 2009. The shortfall in this sector will be 69 700 people.
Cisco has also cautioned about shortfalls. Alfie Hamid, area manager at Cisco Systems, says South Africa currently boasts 32 ICT academies, which are producing only 3 133 technicians annually. He says the company is engaging with the government to assist with the funding of a new academy to focus on training network professionals. It is hoped that the academy will involve universities and further education training colleges.
"Time is running out," said Geldenhuys. "I am not saying that this will result in a critical failing during the world cup, but it is going to make things rather difficult."
Meanwhile, Rene Jacobs, MD of Gartner Africa, has told a Cape Town conference that companies cannot rely on government to solve the education problem.
Instead, reports Business Day, she says companies should consider sponsoring schools themselves.
This would enable the private sector to take a lead role in improving the level of IT skills available to it.