3 Oct 2012

“ICT service providers must track and trace the regulatory environment and put strategies in place to comply with these laws” urges City of Cape Town Head of IT



 Interview with Ferdie Lochner, Head of IT Finance & Administration Information Systems and Technology, City of Cape Town

1)      Please briefly outline your company, role there, and your recent experience of enterprise ICT services in Africa
I am a technology analyst filling the position of Head: IT Finance & Administration for the City of Cape Town (CoCT).  The CoCT is a local government institution serving approximately 3.7 million citizens with basic municipal services and amenities.   The CoCT’s annual turnover runs into approximately 2 billion Euros, and its ICT footprint consists of 600 physical servers and 13000 computers running on Windows 7, supported by approximately 400 staff members.  The computer network runs on the Microsoft Operating System, while SAP serves as Enterprise Resource Planning application.  In fact, the CoCT constitutes one of the biggest local authority installations in the world  of SAP, now accommodating 7000 business users and more than 11 000  Employee Self-Service users with its HR module.   The CoCT furthermore operates two data centres and a broadband fibre optic network of 270 km, connecting all the most important municipal facilities – with phase 2 of this project extending to facilities controlled by the local provincial authority, i.e. the Western Cape Government.  
2)      What have been the main developments in the African enterprise ICT market over the last six months to 1 year?
The two main developments have been the addition of a third undersea cable (WACS - West Africa Cable System) since 2009 to the African continent, helping to lower the cost of bandwitdh and increasing the penetration of the Internet from the 13.5% where it currently lies, and the astonishing speed of penetration of the mobile market.
3)      What are the biggest challenges facing enterprises in Africa when it comes to ICT?
The lack of backhaul network infrastructure across the continent and the lack of regulatory harmony.
4)      Do you think ICT service providers seeing challenges around customer data usage rising much faster than revenue, as in the consumer market? How do you think they can tackle this?
With an increase in privacy laws and associated protective measures recognised as a major trend, I definitively see increasing challenges around customer data usage.  I would recommend ICT service providers track and trace the regulatory environment and put strategies in place to comply with these laws.  The early adopter will make it a competitive advantage.
5)      What would you say is your defining 2012 ICT ‘moment’ in Africa, technology or service?
The continued liberalisation in the telecoms market makes me look forward to the first fibre to school/college/university campus/home installation for every suburb in every town, rich or poor, where access to educational, medical, and commercial institutions – to name the most important – are urgently required. 
6)      Is there enough innovation occurring in the industry? Can you provide some more examples?
Thanks to Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”, there is always a need for new innovations for countries and their businesses to remain competitive and to help create economic growth.  In spite of pockets of excellence in the industry (i.e. Silicon Savannah and ways in which the mobile market adapted for educational, medical and commercial purposes), the ICT industry needs to innovate more.  Specific focus areas are the need for sustainable energy and backhaul infrastructure,  and appropriate devices which could serve as durable, clever, low energy and multi-purpose computer  - the tablet for the masses. 
7)      Which key message do you want to highlight during your participation at Enterprise ICT Africa in Cape Town later this year? 
The need to help slingshot the African continent past the crevices of the so-called Digital Divide with innovations which are sustainable and appropriate for the continent’s needs.

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