Q5: Doubling down on digital, with Gaynor MacArthur [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Gaynor MacArthur, Digicape co-founder and managing director, talks local tech trends, the persistence of the digital divide and what’s needed for women to succeed in her sector.
Q5: What digital technology trends can we expect to see in South Africa this year?
Gaynor MacArthur: Without the aid of a crystal ball, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what we can look forward to this year. However, I do believe that 2020 will see companies more rapidly unlock the full potential of some of the powerful technologies that have emerged over recent years. I do predict that some of the technologies that we can still look forward to will be centred [on] artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), robotics, internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity.
With 5G becoming a reality in SA, the faster connectivity will enable a superior AI and ML environment. This means SA is going to look for more ways to incorporate 5G so that it can provide consistent, valuable services for our internal and external customers. In SA currently, AI is most commonly used for automation and prediction, but it has the potential to be a game-changer as it can address a plethora of challenges in a variety of fields, such as healthcare and education.
Cybersecurity has become a paramount concern for many company owners, due to the constant stream of data breaches that have hit the headlines, ranging from the theft of medical information to account credentials, corporate emails, and sensitive enterprise data. Mimecast’s 2019 annual report revealed that 88% of South African organisations experienced a phishing attack in the past year. Impersonation attacks are also on the rise, with 8 out of every 10 SA organisations experiencing an impersonation attack, and 63% reporting an increase in such attacks. We can therefore expect to see improved security and compliance, as it becomes crucial.
Finally, we will see a moving trend towards more-simplified, -collaborative tools that will allow employees to be more efficient and productive. This, in turn. provides a better customer experience and improves the bottom line. For example, one of the internal tools Digicape uses is Slack, which is essentially a platform shared by everyone in your workforce. The platform’s workspaces allow you to organise and limit communications to relevant parties, simplifying and streamline internal communication and workflow.
Q5: What, in your opinion, needs to be done to bridge the digital divide that remains in this country? And what can we do to help that happen?
GM: We are living in a more-connected world and yet we are still impacted by the lack of access to technology in certain demographics and regions. Until such time that the government realises the importance of information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools, I worry that this gap will continue to grow. We need to educate and continue to put pressure on government and corporate institutions to support schools and assist learners by providing resources, training and services.
Digicape, for example, recently held coding workshops for learners during the holidays. The workshops saw kids learn how to write apps for both traditional computers as well as mobile devices. They also learnt to experiment with code using a highly creative interface. Our aim is to offer these courses externally, so that more children have access to skills that will assist them in the future workforce.
Q5: What would you say is critical for women to succeed in the digital technology sector?
GM: To succeed in this industry, I believe women need to constantly hone their skills, have a curious mind and a good dose of confidence. Young women need good female role models and support, from our male counterparts as well, across all industries — not just tech. Established women must realise their responsibility and step into their role to act as mentors, and empower other young women entering the workforce by allowing them a voice and platform to share ideas, internal promotion, mentorship and training opportunities. This needs to be a concerted effort by all senior leadership, and integral to the DNA of the business.
Q5: You’ve said that Digicape has a strong focus on upskilling team members. What does this entail, and what is the value in it?
GM: Besides building a good culture, it’s imperative to invest in an employee’s learning and development, in any industry. We have developed many of our own internal courses, relevant for our specific role in the industry, which are conducted throughout the year. We also invest in external training and get support from third-party companies as well. For example, in 2018, we sent our employees to complete a series of accredited courses on iOS deployment, making them two of only three Apple Certified Trainers (ACT) in the country who are qualified to train decision-makers within businesses and educational institutions on the principles of iOS deployment.
We further focus on soft skills, for example, on how to be more self-aware and how our behaviours impact the people around us. The training also includes leadership courses that can help employees grow personally. As a leader, the true value attached to our training is being able to see how [employees] learn and grow in their respective roles.
Q5: What is the easiest way for people who aren’t directly involved in the digital technology sector to keep up to date with the latest developments?
GM: Depending on your interest, there are many resources available that can keep you abreast of what is happening in the tech industry. It really depends on what you are specifically interested in. However, the easiest way is to subscribe to newsletters, have an enquiring mind, and not be afraid to ask questions.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with over decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.