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‘Information is the new gold’

THE Zimbabwe Independent interviewed one of Zimbabwe’s top ICT consultants Dennis Magaya who is founder of Rubiem Consulting group. Rubiem has offices in Zimbabwe and South Africa and has contracts in the region with top companies and banks as well as governments and government agents. In Zimbabwe, it has running contracts with several top listed companies and multinationals. In the interview, the Zimbabwe independent (ZI) interviews Magaya (DM) on the state of Zimbabwe’s  ICT sector and cyber security, below are excerpts:

ZI: What are the  benefits of digital transformation?

DM: Covid-19 temporarily took over as Chief Technology Officer and made the decision that digital transformation is now at the top agenda in all boardrooms for any corporate to survive the tsunami of business disruptions. It is no longer about when and why, but it’s about now and how.

At a shareholder, board and CEO level the biggest benefit of  the digital transformation  is that it provides a low friction path to transform the company’s business model and operating model.  Going digital provides a least cost approach to deal with the manual processes and organisational silos that made it difficult to explore and implement new ways of creating and delivering value.

Executives see the digital transformation benefits, which include cost reduction through introduction of intelligent digital processes in the back-office and revenue growth. Digital channels provide a superior customer journey experience, which increases customer acquisition and much lower cost. The introduction of technologies based on artificial intelligence,  advanced analytics  and customer relationship management that digitises specific functions  rapidly increase the customer life-time value

Industries are at different stages of digital maturity. Banks are probably leading the pack followed by telecommunications and retail in general. Unfortunately, the public sector and manufacturing are terribly behind yet they stand to benefit immensely. The Media and broadcasting industry is the most disrupted by digital platforms has an urgent need to transform

ZI: In your view, what are some of the major trends affecting the IT industry, and how do you see them affecting the profession?

DM: The 4th Industrial revolution is causing rapid and disruptive changes in technologies

Businesses are now driven experimentation with consumer-grade and cutting-edge technology

Information is the new gold and when its combined by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence , companies have a newly found asset with infinite potential

The are traditional silos between business and IT are collapsing and gone are the days when technology was a cost centre under CFO or just an enabler. Technology is now a business driver that creates new opportunities and business models. The traditional IT profession has transformed to a digital profession

ZI: We have witnessed cases of depositors losing their monies to various scams in Zimbabwe in online banking transactions, card fraud and mobile banking. What is your assessment of the banking and telecoms industries’ security and what can be done to improve or tighten the security?

DM: I lost USD9000 from my FBC Bank account in December 2017 due to card cloning. To this day, I am still trying to recover my money. The alleged suspect was taken to court but I still don’t know the verdict. In the four year journey I learnt that the problem is not just banking systems, but even out criminal justice system isn’t quite designed for cyber security crimes. I felt that they treated card cloning as if it’s the same as physical card theft.

The core technology platforms of banking and telecommunications were initially designed for bricks and mortar channels manned by company staff which provided a good sense of security. The advent of digital channels exposed the weaknesses inherent cyber security risks in these organisations. Patch-up solutions are generally inadequate. The entire risk function has to be digitised and Cyber security is no longer an IT role but a responsibility up to Board level

ZI: If you were to wake up with all the powers today, what would you change about Zimbabwe’s ICT policies based on your experience in the region?

DM: The first thing I would change is the perception the ICT is about telecommunications because it’s much more than that. The rapid growth and pervasive nature of digital technologies requires government ICT policy to be reviewed.

The second I would do is rename the Ministry of ICT into a Ministry of Innovation because that is really the end-game of ICT these days.

The third thing would be to create local technology and innovation capacity. I would convert Zimbabwe’s highest literacy rate into an innovation rate. Creating the biggest and best software innovation industry lie a Silicon Valley of Africa doesn’t require forex and imports. We just need brains and Zimbabwean dollars and we can create an industry that brings foreign currency. I would stop the import of basic software systems, provide incentives for the best innovators and researchers in the world to come to Zimbabwe. I would give up to 10 year tax holidays to software companies. I would also ensure that all state owned enterprises in the technology sector are listed on the New York Stock Exchange

The fourth and last thing I would do is to create a world class ICT industry that leverages the national GDP pillars which are namely mining and agriculture.  I would ensure anyone in the world that wants mining software technology would look to Zimbabwe first. The primary focus should not be for Zimbabwe recreating the breadbasket of Africa status but an Agro-innovation basket status. For instance, I would create world class technology around Pfumvudza and transform all the idle agriculture institutions into centres of software innovation technologies that compete at world stage.

ZI: How should companies keep technology skills current?

DM: Companies make the mistake of recruiting for experience most of which is in the past and is becoming obsolete at lightning speed. Companies should recruit for attitude and passion then train for skills. Apple was the first company to remove a manual from any of its products even if they were technically advanced. The point is that most of the skills and capabilities we need are freely available on the internet. Brother Google has everything and digital platforms are awash with content in various formats for self-learning. Companies should shift focus from classroom type training into providing content and platforms for staff to collaborate, self-train and network

ZI: What is your assessment of Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions in terms of their capacity to train and produce relevant skills that are up to date in the ICT sector?

DM:  While we have some good institutions, quite a few of them are stuck in the past in terms of teaching and learning methods. Of course the high costs of data is a big limitation but some of the degree courses are no longer relevant. The gap between what students learn at tertiary institutions and the requirements in industry is widening. The introduction of education5.0 which brings innovation and industrialisation as key components of universities is a big step in the right direction. However, the problem is that some of the lecturers simply lack the required skills to appreciate what industry really wants.

FACT FILE: DENNIS MAGAYA

  •  Magaya is the founder and CEO of Telecoms consulting group, Rubiem Consulting, a company with presence in Namibia, South  Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania .
  •  Holds an Electrical Engineering , MSc Engineering , MBA  and Ph.D
  •  Worked as trainee engineer at Anglo-American before joining BP (year) as country manager South Africa and GM Southern Africa – Alternative Energy Solutions at the age of 26
  •  Appointed Motorola Southern Africa as regional manager responsible for Sadc countries 1998
  •  Executive head of strategy for Cell C in South Africa
  •  Sat on the board of Virgin Mobile South Africa
  •  Once appointed ZBC chairman.

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