Wits ap­points ICT in­dus­try leader to head up new Chair in Digital Busi­ness

World-renowned digi­ti­sa­tion thought leader to lead WBS/ Telkom Chair in Digital Busi­ness

Mail & Guardian - - Education -

The Wits Busi­ness School (WBS) has ap­pointed Pro­fes­sor Brian Arm­strong, one of the fore­most ICT in­dus­try lead­ers in South Africa, to head up the new WBS/Telkom Chair in Digital Busi­ness, es­tab­lished in 2016 and the first of its kind in Africa.

Arm­strong has more than 30 years of top level man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, IT, tech­nol­ogy R&D and sys­tems en­gi­neer­ing, both in South Africa and abroad. He is widely re­garded as a thought leader in dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, con­ver­gence and busi­ness strat­egy.

Af­ter 15 years at the Coun­cil for Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search (CSIR), where he was in­volved in ICT re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D), he joined Bri­tish Tele­coms (BT) Global Ser­vices as Vice Pres­i­dent: Mid­dle East and Africa. He then joined Telkom in 2010 and was there un­til March 2017, when he re­signed as Chief Com­mer­cial Of­fi­cer.

Arm­strong, who de­scribes him­self, in­ter­change­ably, as a “busi­ness sci­en­tist” and a “sci­en­tific busi­ness­man” has a pas­sion for the sci­ence be­hind dig­i­til­i­sa­tion, and how it ap­plies to the busi­ness con­text from a busi­ness model/ strat­egy point of view.

“In the past five years or so, there has been much hype around ‘dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion’. But while it is a very real part of our world, and ap­plies to ev­ery as­pect of busi­ness, it is a con­cept that is over­traded but un­der-re­searched. Most of the in­for­ma­tion we have about dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is anec­do­tal – there is no body of knowl­edge avail­able which is un­der­pinned by rigorous aca­demic re­search,” says Arm­strong.

It is for this rea­son that WBS es­tab­lished the Chair in Digital Busi­ness in May last year through a five-year fund­ing com­mit­ment from Telkom.

“It is an hon­our to have some­one of Brian’s stand­ing in the tele­coms in­dus­try to lead this im­por­tant portfolio. With his knowl­edge of the in­dus­try, his pas­sion for the sub­ject of dig­i­til­i­sa­tion and its trans­for­ma­tive ca­pac­ity in all as­pects of busi­ness and so­ci­ety, I can­not think of a better per­son for the job,” says Kalu Ojah, Pro­fes­sor of Fi­nance and Deputy Head of School of WBS.

The Chair in Digital Busi­ness is a first for South Africa and the con­ti­nent and will en­sure that WBS as a busi­ness school lo­cated in the eco­nomic heart of Africa, are at the forefront of de­liv­er­ing im­por­tant re­search and rel­e­vant pro­grammes that are es­sen­tial for do­ing busi­ness in to­day’s digi­tised world.

It will not only con­trib­ute to the econ­omy by de­vel­op­ing es­sen­tial skills that will boost em­ploy­ment and en­cour­age start-ups, but it re­sponds directly to the Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion Strat­egy adopted by the African Union in 2014 that aims to re­po­si­tion the con­ti­nent as a col­lec­tion of tech­nol­ogy-driven economies, en­sur­ing the sus­tain­able growth of the coun­tries within.

WBS also plans to con­duct re­search in the field of digital busi­ness in Africa, and ad­vance aware­ness of digital busi­ness and readi­ness by en­gag­ing with busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.

“The Chair in Digital Busi­ness is a wel­come ad­di­tion to Wits’ suite of data sci­ence and big data cour­ses and re­search, as well as to our new in­no­va­tion hub, the Wits Tshi­mol­o­gong Digital In­no­va­tion Precinct in Braam­fontein. The de­vel­op­ment of a suc­cess­ful tech­nol­ogy ecosys­tem is cru­cial to eco­nomic growth and in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness, and I have no doubt that these cut­ting edge of­fer­ings will be cen­tral to this,” says Pro­fes­sor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chan­cel­lor and Prin­ci­pal.

The Chair will en­sure that WBS is at the forefront of de­vel­op­ing im­por­tant re­search as well as teach­ing pro­grammes that are es­sen­tial for do­ing busi­ness in to­day’s digital world. In ad­di­tion to its ini­tial R32,7 mil­lion fund­ing over five years, Telkom is creating a black in­tern­ship pro­gramme for WBS stu­dents, and will also of­fer free digital busi­ness train­ing to its own staff.

The ‘flag­ship’ pro­gramme of the Chair will be a masters de­gree in Digital Busi­ness, but there will be other of­fer­ings, in­clud­ing a post­grad­u­ate diploma, and on­line and ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses.

Arm­strong says his vi­sion for the Chair is three­fold: to be a cen­tre of ex­cel­lence in digital busi­ness in South Africa and Africa, to be­come fully sus­tain­able, and to have an im­pact on so­ci­ety.

“New and rig­or­ously con­ducted re­search will un­der­pin cur­ricu­lum de­vel­op­ment, and there will be ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate and share in this re­search. Our out­puts must be seen and felt in our so­ci­ety; the Chair must have an im­pact on the South African and African busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties.”

“There have been sig­nif­i­cant changes in digital busi­ness, and this role af­fords me the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the in­dus­try through re­search while bring­ing to the ta­ble my prac­ti­cal, busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence. Wits was my first choice be­cause it’s a top re­search in­sti­tu­tion, and like­wise WBS, which is at the forefront of emerg­ing mar­ket re­search and shares my vi­sion for the Chair,” says Arm­strong.

Arm­strong com­pleted his BSc (Eng) and MSc (Eng) at the Uni­ver­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in 1982 and 1984 re­spec­tively, and ob­tained his PhD from Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don in 1992.

Be­fore join­ing Wits in July 2017, he was a key part of the lead­er­ship team which has been cred­ited with turn­ing Telkom around, in the ca­pac­ity of Group Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer and Group Chief Com­mer­cial Of­fi­cer. In his time with Telkom he also re­vived the ail­ing Telkom Busi­ness unit, and con­ceived and led the ac­qui­si­tion of BCX and its in­te­gra­tion into the group. He was also re­spon­si­ble for the group’s re­tail unit, as well as lead­ing group strat­egy and trans­for­ma­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

Be­fore join­ing Telkom in 2010 Brian was BT’s Vice Pres­i­dent for Mid­dle East and Africa with over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity to over­see and grow BT’s ac­tiv­i­ties across the re­gion. Be­fore that his work ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes South Africa’s CSIR, ul­ti­mately as the Direc­tor of the Di­vi­sion for In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy; and South African listed ICT ser­vices group AST (now Gi­jima), as Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of AST Net­works.

His pro­fes­sional in­ter­ests in­clude busi­ness lead­er­ship, dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, strate­gic change lead­er­ship and man­age­ment, cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship, or­gan­i­sa­tional de­sign, multi­na­tional and mul­ti­cul­tural busi­ness op­ti­mi­sa­tion, and ven­ture creation.

Brian Arm­strong is glob­ally renowned as a thought leader in dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. Photo: Wits Uni­ver­sity

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.