(Published - 1 August 2018)
The career paths of Information and Technology (IT) students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) have been boosted after the University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).
The five-year agreement, subject to renewal, will provide platforms for students to develop their IT applications, provide them with internships, and advise them on career choices.
Associate Professor Osden Jokonya, acting head of UWC’s Department of Information Systems (IS), said the agreement stems from government’s realisation that it cannot simply find solutions to the country’s challenges on its own, and that it should work with universities to avoid duplications of effort and resources.
According to the MoU, SITA will advise UWC on curriculum development and will serve on the UWC IS Department’s advisory committee. The two institutions will collaborate in areas such as research, career exhibitions, seminars, and hackathons.
The partnership will also allow both parties to explore grant funding models for students through the National Skills Fund, for leveraging students’ ICT skills to contribute towards start-up training on emerging businesses, and rural and community development.
Linkages between post-school education and SITA as a workplace will also be explored, as will programmes that can facilitate entrepreneurship.
“One of the chief challenges in South Africa is a shortage of ICT skills, and institutions of higher learning have been tasked with delivering more ICT professionals and coming up with our own initiatives,” said Prof Jokonya.
“The Memorandum of Understanding aims to address that, but it’s just a start. We need to develop it further and sign contracts on individual projects.”
The agreement also calls for the creation of a platform for UWC’s research work and relevant solutions to be commercialised for consumption through SITA, enabling UWC students to deliver on projects and assignments that are focused on solving socio-economic challenges, thereby contributing to the public service’s digital transformation agenda.
In addition, as part of the National Development Plan 2030 Hackathon, universities have to come up with ICT-related projects that can have a significant impact on socio-economic challenges facing the country.
Said Prof Jokonya: “We need to come up with programmes for industry and align them to the needs of the community. With SITA’s help, we can do this more effectively, and create ICT solutions for real change.”