Industry in flux
DTI to software development’s rescue
SOUTH AFRICA’S ICT industry may well impress globally, particularly in the fields of electronic banking, pre-payment solutions and fraud prevention systems, but that’s hardly a reflection of the state of the local software development industry.
Despite the growing number of state-ofthe-art technology incubators being set up countrywide – among them the multi-million rand Innovation Hub outside Pretoria – SA’s software development industry lags far behind peer countries. India, for instance, has well over 70 software companies that have reached CMMI maturity level five.
CMMI is the acronym for Capability Maturity Model Integration – a measure fast becom- ing an international benchmark for assessing the quality of the process in software development. Level five is the highest rating on the CMMI model, with one the entry level.
Barry Dwolatzsky, academic director at the Wits Universityhoused Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) – an institution set up by industry, academia and Government to augment SA’s capacity to research, develop and deliver world-class software – says India is the preferred destination for international companies looking to tender their business.
“International companies looking to outsource or tender their business want the assurance that the company awarded the tender has the ability and capacity to manage the associated risks.
“A major factor in awarding these tenders is the quality and competitiveness of software engineering firms. CMMI provides the benchmark to evaluate these firms, with most large tenders placing emphasis on level four or five,” says Dwolatsky.
Whereas India has over 70 level 5 CMMI companies, SA has none.
With a capital contribution of R1,5m, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has stepped up to help the JCSE bolster the poor state of the local industry.
Yusuf Timol, who’s in charge of the DTI’s electro-technical division, says: “We may be lagging behind India but the truth is that SA is home to some of the best software engineering firms. The problem for local firms has been the costly process of attaining CMMI certification. Candidates have to be either sent to Europe or the US for training or trainers have to be flown to SA at a huge cost.
“This is why the DTI decided to invest in the JCSE’s programme aimed at making local software developers competitive globally.”
Dwolatzsky says the DTI’s financial input will come in handy, as it will be channelled towards training staff earmarked to present the CMMI training and assessment programme.
“An introductory-level CMMI course in the US costs between R20 000 and R30 000, excluding travel and lodging fees. The same course offered locally by the JCSE will cost about R7 900. We hope many local companies kept away by the cost factor will enrol.”
SA has a far better developed industry than India. Barry Dwolatzsky