Return on Investment is affecting IT innovation in Africa

October 29, 2012

This past weekend was eventful and one to remember after spending an hour and half talking with CEO of one the biggest banks in Africa. During our conversation it was clear that return on investment has become factor when it comes to IT innovations in Africa. He added ICT professionals needed to develop a bit of an attitude problem when gaining support for their ideas. The CEO emphasized need for IT expats to push for more openness, availability and inclusion through IT innovation.After the conversation, it was clear that not most expats who do IT innovations to improve the interface between the human and machine which frees up the human endeavor from drudgery.In my opinion, IT innovations is not what we should be about but it should be about making people wiser in their spending decisions. The CEO shared with me a very important message “parallels between the improvements in people’s lives and the improvements in people’s financial lives is exactly the same. That’s what the financial endeavor is all about”.

Despite the CEO remarks, very few banks are beyond what banking is all about which is fee per transaction and have failed to know their customers more intimately or work with them on their goals.Most banks business models have failed to underpin IT architecture and investments. Traditional return on investment models have failed and IT staff have failed to gather enough courage and ingenuity to challenge the status quo when it comes to innovations in banks, telecoms companies and other organizations. Last year, I had a chat with an IT manager working for a telecom company in South Africa where he revealed to me that when it came to innovations at his place, there is always someone on the other side that’s going to say no. Sometime others ask when will the IT innovations going get the money back to company coffers. That he told was what has retarded innovation at the telecom giant.

In my decade plus career in IT, I’ve witnessed many great ideas that don’t get investment because the timeframe in which people expect return on investment. IT innovators can be as innovative as they like but they cannot put all sorts of money into research and development. Those who don’t translate all of that endeavor into rapid insight and turn that into market their valuable innovations end up being wasted ICT profession had been marketed poorly in previous years, with university programs tending to highlight database administration or systems engineering roles. From my experience in IT, the career opportunity is to be at the forefront in any industry, creating value through data and logic. At this moment I believe the finance and biomedical industries as the sectors that will invest more heavily in IT for the next five to eight years.

Contador Harrison