ICT skills shortages in under-developed areas of South Africa: a case of the Eastern Cape
Information and Communication Technology is a mixed set of technological tools and resources used to create and manage information. It involves technologies such as radio, television, video, DVD, telephone (both fixed line and mobile phones), satellite systems, computer (network hardware and software) as well as the tools and services associated with these technologies. ICT is increasingly seen as a major enabler of efficiencies and a catalyst for innovations. With adequate skills to effectively use ICT, it can also prove to be a foundation upon which sustainable socio-economic developments can be built. The problem in South Africa, however, is that of a severe shortage of technical skills in the ICT sector. The paradox is that despite the efforts at national, provincial and organisational levels to redress the shortage of skills, the problem persists. The aim of this study thus, was to understand the magnitude of skills shortages in under-developed areas of the Eastern Cape, so as to inform corrective measures. The Actor Network Theory (ANT) was used mainly as an analytical framework to analyse the problem of e-Skills shortages in South Africa. ANT helped in framing the context of the problem. It offered useful lenses of viewing the e-Skills development phenomenon as a network of stakeholders (actors), subjects (actants), processes and a determinant of information flows within the e-Skills development network. The study was mostly descriptive (and partly explanatory), seeking to clarify the status quo, the causes, and ultimately, to explore appropriate solutions. The interpretive approach was followed to conduct qualitative research. In this instance, a purposive sampling method was used to draw participants mainly from un/employed grade 12 (grade 12) graduates of 26 participants, consisting of 18 to 35 years of age. Participants were also drawn from high-level management in the training and development organisations and local employers of ICT graduates of Centane and Butterworth villages in the Eastern Cape. Content analysis technique was used to analyse and interpret data. Findings do reflect a severe lack of basic ICT skills, with causal factors varying from a lack of awareness about ICT careers, to a lack of access to ICT tools, with the majority of the affected grade 12 graduates neither being employed nor doing any tertiary studies. It is therefore recommended for the government to revisit the e-Skills policy and its implementation structures in rural areas. The Department of Education (DoE) in the Eastern Cape should also create educational networks that will provide remote schools with low cost, but high performance Internet access. A re-look into the general quality of education in rural areas is also urgent.