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Women in ICT Feature: Dr Denisha Jairam-Owthar

Africa is not a saturated market and I see a whole new economy emerging with digital and IT playing a critical role in this new economy.


“There are far more opportunities on this continent than in saturated markets. With the open source element of IT, developers can give back to Africa with innovative ways to improve the lives of all its citizens.”- Dr Denisha Jairam-Owthar, CIO: CoJ

The City of Johannesburg has been undergoing a dramatic transformation in terms of its IT over the past few years and from a disjointed, half-hearted attitude towards IT – seeing it as a support function, this has metamorphosised into it being at the centre of everything the city does, underpinning and strategically linked to the business strategy. One of the key drivers of this has been Dr Denisha Jairam-Owthar, the city’s CIO, who has been part of the evolution of the city’s ICT and its attitude towards ICT. Now, thanks to progressive senior leadership – from the mayor down, IT has its place very firmly on the executive table.

“Our ERP system is at the core of what we do and we have already begun our migration to SAP S4 HANA to comply with legislation and the requirements of Treasury that it has access to check that money budgeted for projects has been correctly used. It is vital that all the different departments and their components, such as HR and finance are integrated. We have put a huge effort into encompassing all the city’s service providers in what we do, such as Jo’burg Water and City Power.”

According to Jairam-Owthar, the city pivots around collaboration, engagement, and consolidation, saying that this will provide the ability to leverage skills from a centralised perspective. This will also mean cost containment and being able to avoid outsourcing. Already huge cost savings have been achieved by putting pressure on vendors to be more aggressive in their pricing to the city. Through centralisation, the cost of licencing has also been dramatically reduced. This means more budget available to assist citizens in other areas such as the development and roll-out of one smart card for all the different transport services, which she says is one of her new priorities.

Another of her priorities is optimising the city’s business analytics tools to help with reusing, optimising, consolidating, and aligning with existing and emerging best practice trends.

“MTN has given us opportunities to consolidate, which has really helped us within the dynamics of COVID. When COVID happened, MTN came right to the party. The impact of the current economic climate is huge and whatever we as a city do has an impact on the entire GDP of the country. COVID has not held us back. Things have been difficult, but by putting our heads together collectively we find ways around the challenges.”

Asked how the CIO role is changing, Jairam-Owthar says: “The role of the CIO is becoming more multi-purposeful and needing to understand the organisation from end to end. CIOs bring business and technology together and provide the intelligence the business needs.”


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