Africa needs to foster software developers


“The key thing to remember is, especially here in South Africa, we’re not late comers in the world of professionally writing software. We’ve got a great track record here in South Africa and we’re seeing this growing group of people across our continent coming together to write fantastic software,” said Barry Dwolatzky, director and chief executive of the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University.

“We’ve seen amazing stuff happen over the last couple of years in terms of this new generation of software developers but the concern is can they do enterprise level stuff. If Africa is to meet its destiny and be the continent of the coming decades then we have to not just be consumers of software, we have to write software ourselves.”

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Dwolatzky, who spoke on developing enterprise software in Africa at the IT Leaders Africa Summit in South Africa, believes that initiating best practice in software writing is key to developing it on the continent.

“The point of this kind of software is its designed to support and to automate business processes within that organisation – that’s what we mean by enterprise software and it’s got some key characteristics: it has to perform well, it has to be scalable, it has to be robust, it needs to be maintainable,” he explained.

“If we are going to develop enterprise-level software here in Africa, we’ll need to have our software engineering practices making our local developers capable of producing not just a good, smart piece of software but high quality software produced in a predictable and feasible way.”

He added that it may benefit the continent in the long run to build its own software rather than buy it and that, at the moment, Africa is not where it needs to be.

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“If we look at where we are now, the state of software engineering practice in Africa is pretty dismal. We do not educate many world-class, local software engineers. We’ve got great weaknesses in our education system. There are very few policies and incentives in place to help local software development in South Africa and in Africa to become world class,” Dwolatzky said.

“If we are going to produce the kind of software that this continent needs, not to just have personal applications on our tablets and our cellphones but to really engage in high end software development, we have to embrace the concept of best practice. We have to train more software engineers who can understand how to produce high quality software and we must use models and frameworks to do things in a world class way.”