Empowering SA in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Microsoft SA MD Lillian Barnard discusses how the organisation investing in the future of SA's digital transformation.

Microsoft SA MD Lillian Barnard discusses how the organisation investing in the future of SA’s digital transformation.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly changing the way people live, work, and relate to one another, and Microsoft is in the middle of it.

This is according to Microsoft SA’s MD Lillian Barnard, who says: “This revolution, like every revolution before it, has the power and potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. But for this to happen we have to take advantage of the opportunities presented by innovation and new advances in technology.”

She says Microsoft believes that substantial investment in infrastructure, innovation and skills development will help SA navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and set the country up for future digital success.

Meeting SA’s socio-economic needs

“It was in this spirit that we announced the evolution of our Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (or EEIP). The programme was launched in 2011 when Microsoft committed to investing a percentage of the total revenue of its South African operation to support local independent software vendors (ISVs), each year, over seven years.”

Since that first announcement, however, SA’s socio-economic needs have drastically shifted, she adds.

In response to these changes, Microsoft has evolved its investment in the EEIP to leverage the enormous economic opportunities presented by the new public cloud, as well as Microsoft’s cloud services that are now available in SA.

Barnard highlights how the evolved EEIP programme will see a multimillion-dollar investment into two key pillars:

* Driving innovation in key sectors
* Improving skills in software development.

Barnard says this will include investment in technology solutions in agriculture and digital transformation manufacturing – just two sectors where key government priorities and Microsoft focus areas overlap.

These are among the key sectors that contribute to the gross domestic product and keep the economic engine running. Through Microsoft’s investments in innovation to boost these sectors, it is aiming to spur economic growth in the country.

“Through this programme we aim to provide businesses with access to technology solutions with a focus on enabling digital transformation in the manufacturing sector, and we also aim to provide small-scale commercial farmers with access to technology solutions to enable them to ultimately grow their businesses and compete.”

Microsoft has invested in numerous programmes and partnerships to enable digital skills development, with a specific focus on enabling employment opportunities for our youth. “Our existing investments range from basic literacy skills through to deep technical skills for the cloud and digital era.”

She adds: “Through this EEIP investment, we will be funding skills development among SA’s young software developers, making them more employable. The investment will focus on job experience for software developers through multiple AppFactories hosted by strategic partners across the country.”

Microsoft will continue to invest in the ISV sector to strengthen local intellectual property, as well as accelerate their growth in the global market.

Increased opportunity with local datacentres

The evolved EEIP and the newly-launched Microsoft datacentres in Johannesburg and Cape Town, highlight Microsoft’s commitment to investing in SA, she says.

According to the IDC, spending on public cloud services in SA will nearly triple from R4.29 billion in 2017 to R11.53 billion in 2022, and the adoption of cloud services will generate nearly 112 000 net new jobs in the country by the end of 2022.

The study also shows that increased utilisation of public cloud services and the additional investments into private and hybrid cloud solutions is enabling organisations in SA to focus on innovation, and building digital businesses at scale. In turn, this enablement will help businesses generate close to R80 billion in new revenue over the next five years.

She says the availability of Microsoft’s cloud services delivered from SA will mean local companies can securely and reliably move their businesses to the cloud while meeting compliance requirements.

Inspiring more people to say ‘send me’

Microsoft knows that a key part of President Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina vision, are programmes wherein organisations use their talent and resources to upskill individuals and increase economic opportunity in the country.

That’s why Microsoft evolved the EEIP – because it benefits the country economically, and demonstrates that it is investing in the right initiatives to ensure inclusion, diversity, and success in the digital economy.

“We are already seeing great examples of how Microsoft’s investment in local innovation is having an impact on many of the partnerships we have with our customers in both the private and public sector,” concludes Barnard. “This will accelerate with the expansion of the EEIP and the opening of new enterprise-grade datacentre regions in SA.”

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