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IT leaders share security concerns regarding tech innovation, but can they afford to let risk hold them back?

 According to research by HPE Aruba Networking (NYSE: HPE), 64% of IT leaders believe that cybersecurity concerns are negatively impacting their organisation’s willingness to invest in innovative tech. This is part of a broader trend locally, with studies showing that 42% of South African companies say fear of the unknown is a hinderance to their adoption of technology such as AI. But this comes at a time when IT leaders must be empowered to embrace AI to accelerate business-critical transformation – something more than 60% of South African companies say is important to their business.

With headlines full of the promise of the latest technologies, HPE Aruba Networking’s research, which features responses from 2,100 IT leaders across 21 countries, examined how organisations are currently approaching the interplay between innovation and risk. The report also sheds light on the role IT leaders and the network have to play in facilitating safer innovation.

The rise of innovation

A vast majority (95%) of IT leaders state that digitisation is fundamentally important to unlocking new revenue streams in the next 12 months. In fact, both IT and the broader business are pushing to bring in new technologies that can boost innovation in terms of how the business functions and what it offers. As they look to increase innovation, organisations are turning to emerging technology, and are currently using or planning to bring in 5G (91%), AI and machine learning (ML) solutions (89%), or IoT and smart sensors (88%).

Despite this push, only 45% of IT leaders describe their organisation as innovative – and worryingly, even less describe it as secure (44%). In fact, research from PwC shows most South African organisations say they expect third-party breaches to increase significantly in 2023 when compared with 2022, saying that this is primarily due to an increase in digitisation.

Managing the growing risk

There is also a growing gulf between tech demands and the IT team’s capability to manage it all – more than half of South African businesses feel they aren’t well prepared to implement AI, with a further 54% citing internal skills levels as the biggest challenge.

Combining this rise in technology use with the lack of resource and broader trends around remote working, hybrid cloud, and distributed centers of data, organisations are facing greater exposure than ever.

“In an increasingly tough business environment, South African executives are under significant pressure to drive new revenue opportunities by increasing their digitisation. The introduction of emerging technologies, however, requires a new approach to security that delivers build-in protection. This is where AI Networking comes in,” said Mandy Duncan, Country Manager South Africa, HPE Aruba Networking.

The role of the network

According to the HPE Aruba Networking research, there is growing recognition of the network’s role in business transformation – and, in particular, of the link between the network and both security and innovation. In fact, 64% of IT leaders believe the network can support cybersecurity effectiveness and 61% believe it can support greater innovation. And IT leaders are investing accordingly – organisations are starting to press ahead with network-based security solutions including, Security Service Edge (SSE) or similar edge-to-cloud security (89%), policy-based network access control (88%), and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) security (87%).

But evidence suggests that they still need help tying these investments together to realise their benefits – only 47% of IT leaders believe their current network can deliver or support flexible enterprise security and even less see its role in supporting emerging technologies (37%).

Duncan concludes: “The pursuit of innovation shouldn’t have to come at the cost of greater risk to the organisation’s security.  A unified approach that brings together all disparate network technologies can truly deliver a network capable of supporting safe innovation.”

Additional resources

To learn more, visit the HPE Aruba Networking website. For real-time news updates, follow HPE Aruba Networking on Twitter and Facebook, and for the latest technical discussions on mobility and products, visit the Airheads Community at

About Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) is the global edge-to-cloud company that helps organisations accelerate outcomes by unlocking value from all of their data, everywhere. Built on decades of reimagining the future and innovating to advance the way people live and work, HPE delivers unique, open, and intelligent technology solutions as a service.  With offerings spanning Cloud Services, Compute, High Performance Computing & AI, Intelligent Edge, Software, and Storage, HPE provides a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, helping customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance. For more information, visit: