New Cape CiTi CEO focuses on tech, jobs

Computer coding. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Computer coding. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - The first priority for the new Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) chief executive is to partner with tech-friendly organisations to accelerate innovation.

CiTi, previously known as the Cape IT Initiative, is a non-profit organisation that aims to develop Cape Town and the region as a global technology cluster and hub for innovation.

"We have had great success in delivering bespoke enterprise development programmes aimed at incubating BEE start-ups. The benefits of those have been a stable BEE supply chain for companies such as Telkom," CiTi CEO Ian Merrington told Fin24.

Merrington has extensive experience in the ICT sector, including as group financial director of BBDO and as chief operating officer for iKineo.

He said that that CiTi was ideally placed to drive technology innovation.

"Our environment is considerably more conducive of tech innovation than the traditional corporate workplace which enables us to assist business to solve problems through both creative and innovative execution."

Education

While SA has a growing tech sector, some firms are still resistant to expanding into technology solutions that meet needs of an emerging economy.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the country graduates relatively few matric school leavers with passes in mathematics and physical science.

According to the department of basic education's NSC 2013 Diagnostic Report, maths skills in particular are poor, and this has acute implications for achievement.

"Mathematical skills are a critical skills gap in many subjects, with predictable implications for learner achievement. Many reports in this publication attribute poor performance in such subjects to the poor mathematical skills of the candidates.

"Despite the improved pass rate in Mathematics and in Mathematical Literacy, the lack of foundational competencies in mathematics remains a challenge across the board," the report says.

Despite a matric pass rate of over 70%, SA is also challenged by slow growth in the job market.

Employment

Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer, speaking after the publication of the matric results of 2014, said that students should not be "lost" in the system.

"We believe that retaining more learners in the system and giving them the opportunity to pass the [matric] is more important than 'losing' learners along the way so that schools can achieve a higher pass rate," she said.

Merrington said that partnerships with business could drive innovation and unlock employment opportunities.

"Partnering with business is therefore an ideal model to unlock tech as a platform for innovation and business growth. Ultimately all of these initiatives lead to job creation, our first strategic priority as an organisation.


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