Telcos : Time to beef up your software engineering talent !!!

In the past decade the telecommunication industry has been revolutionized by advances in three core technologies: photonics, microelectronics, and software. The emergence of high-speed optical transmission and switching plus 4G Ran is likely to fuel an already growing demand for interactive image communications, multimedia applications, and real time video services, including video conferencing, TV, and High-Definition TV. As such a deeper understanding of the architectures and protocols for broadband integrated services networks and the ability to highlight relevant performance issues becomes a critical skill.

Clearly the modern IP based Telecoms networks are more about software than hardware now. The BSS / OSS has become the brain of the network with its complex layers of middle ware to control and bill for traffic in high speed wireless data networks. In the current telecom market where the devices are smarter, the networks are accelerated and customers are well informed, the balance between OSS and BSS plays significant role in the quality of customer experience. OSS and BSS together enable the CSP’s to consolidate, simplify and automate the operations. According to IBM Tech Trends Report , mobile computing, cloud computing, social business and business analytics have gone beyond niche technology status and are now part of core IT focus. All of these technology trends require fast response times, vast stores of data, and a highly elastic backbone of networks and servers. The new software developed for clouds demands different kinds of code to take advantage of the flexibility of computing clusters.

Today’s networks are facing the increasing pressures of mobility and BYOD, social media usage, and Big Data analytics. More bandwidth is required to support these trends, and IT is being challenged to reduce latency and deliver acceptable performance for cloud-based applications and services. One response to the escalating demand for faster, more efficient networks has been the emergence of software-defined networking (SDN). It’s still early days for SDN, with adoption being confined largely to industry giants such as Google. But as SDN matures, it could play a critical role in helping organizations define, provision, and manage their networks.

In the US there a stampede for software talent. Companies and Universities battle to attract students with Maths skills to learn about software engineering or design exciting new platforms that leverage the Internet. Recruiters say the fiercest demand is for top-level, experienced workers with a few critical skills such as user interface, which involves designing the look and feel of a software application; mobile apps development, which entails programming for smartphones and tablets; and cloud computing software, which requires new kinds of code. Yet the Telecoms industry in MEA Region is plagued by :

• An acute shortage of people with Science , Engineering and Technological competencies combined with essential management skills
• Unavailability of readily accessible information on trends and conditions in the labor market enabling correct career and learning choices and investment decisions
• Dwindling pool of technically competent and adequately prepared candidates from the youth market to take up available jobs in the science , information , technology sectors
• Lack of funding for focused training and education projects that will ensure continuous skills upgrading to keep abreast of the technological innovation

This “ penury in competence “ and ensuing structural unemployment has grave implications on the competitiveness of many Telco companies . Many countries in Middle East and Africa have a high structural unemployment rate ie : the unavailability of skilled people for available jobs. Many unemployed are professional people with social sciences backgrounds that are worthless in the new InfoTech economy. Ofcourse it is a no brainer to recruit software engineers from the “ software factory “ nations like India if you can afford and wish to rely on expats. However this does nothing to address the problem of structural unemployment or rising joblessness among the youth in Middle East and Africa .

Software engineers apply the principles of engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that make computers or anything containing software work. Some of the basic competencies a typical Software Engineer learn are :

• Study of the principles and practices of software engineering : software quality concepts, process models, software requirements analysis, design methodologies, software testing, and software maintenance. Hands-on experience building a software system using the waterfall life cycle model.
• Problem-solving and program design using C++ : Introducing a variety of programming techniques, algorithms, and basic data structures—including an introduction to object-oriented programming
• Software Testing and Quality Assurance : quality concepts, black and white box testing techniques, test coverage, test planning, levels of testing, the formation of a testing organization, testing-in-the large and special problems in object-oriented testing, documentation for testing, and inspections and walkthroughs as a vehicle for product quality
• Oriented Information Systems : Investigation of different architectural strategies for building object oriented information systems. Develop familiarity with modeling, design, and implementation techniques used in the construction of object oriented information systems.
• Software Metrics : Theoretical foundations for software metrics. Data collection. Experimental design and analysis. Software metric validation. Measuring the software development and maintenance process. Measuring software systems. Support for metrics. Statistical tools. Setting up a measurement program. Application of software measurements.

What is urgently required is an innovative industry-university-government collaboration to prepare math and science graduates for advanced study in software engineering, telecommunications, and satellite communication and provide them with convenient advanced degree programs This will ramp up the development of software and telecommunications engineering human resources, and help accelerate the development of ancillary telecommunications and software engineering industries in MEA Region. Telcos in MEA need to do more to accelerate the skilling software engineers by setting up Software Engineering Centres in the countries they operate instead of relying on universities.

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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