27Dinner talk, Mutual-Aid between African Bloggers

Thank you very much to Dave Duarte and Max Kaizen who have both supported my drive to create stronger relationships between South African bloggers and those bloggers from the rest of Africa. This has nothing to do with with the Xenophobia attacks, although it will restore tremendous goodwill that has always been there in the blogging community – most South African bloggers may not have been aware of this until this talk at the bi-monthly 27Dinner event in Cape Town.

I delivered for me one of the most important messages since I began blogging in 2003. I have taken up the cause of bringing blogging to the masses and also using these platforms to enhance entrepreneurship. We can never have enough collaboration or communication between. Through a series of experience and travels I have met and become friendly with many bloggers in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa.

The journey for me started back in 2006 when I attended the inaugural Digital Citizens Indaba. I am returning to Uitenhage via the Garden Route and will blog more about the background to this project this weekend…

Anyway here’s the Presentation, cleaned up a little bit from 27Dinner in Cape Town:

Mutual Aid Between African Bloggers


SMS Dictionary – show kids that you seek first to understand

Elzaan Rohde from Sentient Communication passed this tip onto me from a Google Alert:

I am a very big fan of cell phone SMS (aka text) messages because of my voicemail. I can send SMS with one hand, driving and not even looking at my screen, switching between predictive text and normal typing. Heavy users of SMS messages developed their own shorthand way of talking and not only teenagers use it. In fact there’s a long history of abbreviations from the earliest chat platform on the Internet, IRC. This is because SMS text messages are limited by the cell phone company to 160 characters. So abbreviations are a must if you expect to do any serious communicating. Here’s a cool site, originally mentioned on geardiary.com, that gives you a list of many known SMS abbreviations – or you can use their dictionary translator to type in regular words and see what their SMS abbreviation might be…

SMS Dictionary from Geardiary.com
SMS Dictionary from Geardiary.com

Peter Sondergaard sets the stage at Gartner Africa Symposium 2008

Today is the opening of the annual Gartner Africa Symposium held annually at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). Rene Jacobs, the Managing Director of Gartner Africa welcomed over 1200 delegates to this 3-day tech-fest. The conference runs in parallel to the with an expo from technology vendors. We have met before at the Computer Society’s annual IT Personality of the Year award, for which Gartner is a partner. There is over 1,200 business and IT leaders at the Symposium.

The theme of this year’s conference is about Leadership. According to a Gartner survey, over 70% of CIO’s felt they do not have the right skills. South Africa is still bleeding from the technology brain drain. You have to get involved in education, not just IT education, but business education. She quoted Bill Gates’s Creative Capitalism speech from the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. He said the most powerful innovation happens when a company uses its top talent to solve problems for the impoverished. Government, business and non-profits can work together to stretch the market forces and eventually doing so, reduces inequalities in the world. Rene asked everyone in the audience to imagine the impact of each company adopting a school to help them improve output. To imagine each individual sponsoring a child from grade 1 -12, even up to tertiary level. What difference would that make in terms of South Africa’s skills shortage. She quoted another Gartner estimate, that IT industry is responsible for 2% of the carbon emissions, the same as the airline industry

Peter Sondergaard, Cape Town South AfricaThe rockstar analyst, Peter Sondergaard, head of Gartner Research Worldwide took the stage next like he was rallying the troops. He highlighted a few of the key issues to be discussed over the next 3 days including:

Workforce: the people required will not be in the organistion. Skills will be needed and demand will continue outstrip supply in the technology industry.  From now to 2010 qualified IT professionals who also have very good experience in business will be in an extreme short supply worldwide. And all this is the result of a vacuum in IT leaderships skills as more and more people from the baby boom generation leaves the organisations. When companies who opt for outsourcing or offshoring, they inadvertently create a draining of leaders in their organisation because those people running the IT systems are not staff who can be groomed for leadership. He said you have to define what talent means for your organisation and begin to capitalise on resources worldwide. This is essentially embracing the flat world theories as described by A call that was echoed by subsequent speakers is that to get involved in Education. Think outside the box, way outside the box. Make IT attractive for digital natives. Act now before it’s too late. Quality of IT projects will decline: IT organisation will suffer lack of leadership talent.

Green IT is the other key issue with Gartner:

  1. Reconsider Green-IT’s importance. Managing carbon tracking inside and outside the organisation.
  2. Measuring “green” or carbon cost per transaction.

Peter handed over to the conference’s chairperson, Debra Logan, another distinguised analyst. She said IT and growth is tied together very strongly. A year ago there was a positive outlook for the world and the  there was an especially positive outlook for emerging economies like South Africa. Since 2007 there have been several adverse events in the world: sub-prime crises in USA, the earth quake in China, electricity problem in South Africa earlier this year. South Africa still has a growth rate of 4.1%  and it’s still a growing and vibrant economy. Another catch-phrase that many of the analysts kept repeating is the Two Speed economy globally and in South Africa: 71% of South Africans still believe we can successfully host 2010 Soccer Worldcup. There is more investment happening in South Africa compared to BRIC countries…


Live-Blogging the Gartner Africa Symposium 2008

For the next few days I am live-blogging the Gartner Africa Symposium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Here’s what you can read more about on my NETucation business blog:

The Economist Intelligence Unit has declared 2008 to be the year of the emerging market. They are not alone in this prediction. Emerging economies present companies with some of the biggest opportunities for growth this year. And this doesn’t refer just to China and India.

In fact, the three most buoyant economies in the world are on the continent of Africa. In 2008, sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is predicted by The Economist to grow at a rate of 6.3%, with South Africa growing at 5% (reported at 3.7% on www.businessday.co.za on 8 February 2008). The world is no longer dependent on the developed economies – which will grow only 1.8% in 2008 – to bring growth to the rest of the world. It is precisely because of, rather than in spite of, the challenges facing growth in Africa that the potential returns are great. The ICT sector is both a foundation and an agent of this growth and plays a critical role in solving developing world problems in a sustainable and profitable way.

In Cape Town, from 18 – 20 August 2008, at this year’s Gartner Africa Symposium, you will learn about the tools, technologies and management techniques to position your company to take advantage of this growth in emerging markets, while maintaining the fundamentals of efficiency.

On of the people I am looking forward to meeting in Johnny Clegg, especially after I have been to one of his shows in Johannesburg. He will be delivering the guest speaker today, the opening day at 11h45am.


Qhubeka moving South Africa forward with Nine Million Bicycles

The song Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua is perhaps not the most inspirational song in the world. However, it does make you feel good, if you are even just a little bit as nostalgic as I am. Recently the Facebook social networking website has moved from a boring distraction to a powerful communication tool for me in the last two months. I cannot say exactly what the trigger is; maybe it is simply connecting with like-minded people directly and just in time.

One of those people is Anthony Fitzhenry whom I first met in May 2007 at the now defunct Futurex event. Anthony is the founder of a non-profit organisation, Qhubeka Bikes for Life, which helps poor, previously disadvantaged communities across South Africa purchase bicycles to solve a serious transport and movement problem that exists, especially remote towns or villages. This has been my first exposure to this project and it hit my like a ton of bricks…here is a real solution.

It was starring me in the face all along. And its especially poignant for me because I’ve been talking about purchasing a bike to increase my fitness levels. I’ve always hated jogging and the machines in gyms are even more mechanical. The beautiful things about a bicycle is that I can do some sight seeing while working out as well. In this day and age I suppose the environmental concerns are valid when it comes to reducing car pollution.

Anyway I still have to get my own bike but maybe the Qhubeka movement I can get one for me, and for the Uitenhage community. Taxi fare from the Rosedale, Gamble suburbs into the Uitenhage town area is R7.50 and that makes a return trip R15. Now multiply that by 5 or rather 6 days a week and you’re spending R90 per week on travel and a whopping R378 per month. That monthly amount is particularly important because its about enough to purchase food for a week if you stretch it. The taxi drivers, in my view, do very little to give back to the communities. They monopolise transport, especially in Gauteng where trains and in general, the entire public transport system, is horrendously unsafe and unreliable for a multitude of reasons.

Back to bringing Qhubeka to Uitenhage and the Kwa-Nobuhle township…this is really something tangible for the community to work towards. Its just ironic that most of the people working at the Volkswagen factory in Uitenhage, the biggest employer in the town, will never, ever be able to own the vehicles they are building.

Here’s some more from the Qhubeka Facebook group:

In the Nguni languages of South Africa , of which Zulu is one, Qhubeka means “to carry on”, “to continue”, “to progress” or “to move forward”.

Transportation is a fundamental element of development. Most of Africa’s rural population have no access to any form of transport and people have to walk long distances to access economic opportunities, education, healthcare, shops and other community services.

Rural schoolchildren are particularly badly affected by this lack of mobility. Of the 16 million children in school in South Africa, 12 million walk to school. Of these, 500,000 walk more than two hours each way, spending four hours getting to school and back each day.

The bicycle is the most effective and economical method of quickly (and permanently) addressing some of the problems relating to lack of mobility in the disadvantaged communities of South Africa. Bicycles play a vital role in advancing sustainable socio-economic development in both rural and urban communities around the world.

Some of the potential benefits attached to bicycle transportation include:

  • Cost effective transport
  • Environmentally-friendly transport
  • Time savings
  • Healthy extra-curricular activity


How to choose ISP or consumer Internet access in South Africa

This is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.


ADSL modem and network cable unpluggedThis is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.

1. What are the different Internet access options available to South African consumers?

Dial-up: is the original mechanism used by home users to connect to the Internet access. Your computer connects to the Internet via telephone line. Your operating system like WindowsXP or Linux uses a modem to connect a computer and a telephone line to dial into an Internet service provider’s (ISP) node to establish a modem-to-modem link, which is then routed to the Internet. It is an analogue connection and by comparison the slowest Internet connection. Prices vary from R45 to R145 per month.

ISDN: is a circuit-switched telephone network system, designed to allow digital transmission of voice and data over ordinary telephone copper wires, resulting in better quality and higher data speeds than
are available with analogue. It was often used in videoconferencing because it provides simultaneous voice, video, and text transmissions. Pricing is a combination of monthly subscription + hours dialed into the Internet.

Broadband: is an “always-on” on Internet connection which can be both over fixed telephone lines (ADSL) or wireless connections. Research by Arthur Goldstuck predictes South Africa will have 1.37 million broadband users by end of 2008.

  • ADSL is the form of DSL of all broadband connections. Telkom launched commercial ADSL in 2002 and prices have come down several times since then. Bandwidth capacity and speed has increased now to where up to 4mbps is available. Most ISPs offer ADSL and prices range widely depending on how much bandwith you use. Beginners should start with 1Gig account and business users 3Gigs.
  • 3G: is the 3rd generation of cellphone standards and technology. 3G technologies enable cellphone network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved efficiency. Pricing varies based on many different packages. You can purchase a contract and get the modem free; you can buy the moden and use pre-paid airtime; or you can use a 3G/HSDPA phone to connect using Bluetooth. HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) is a new mobile data protocol and is sometimes referred to as a 3.5G (or “3½G”) technology. It’s available from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile.
  • iBurst: is based on IntelliCell technology from ArrayComm in the US. It uses radio frequencies with base stations and modems. Pricing vary from R49 to R1099 per month. They operate on a reseller model like ADSL so you can purchase it from most ISPs.
  • MyWireless: is a form of Internet connectivity that uses “wireless” technology by creating a radio-based connection to the Internet using network of specially erected towers (base stations). As such, MyWireless provides a secure Internet telecommunications platform at speeds of up to 512kbps. It’s similar to iBurst. Pricing varies from R499 to R1500 per month.

All internet connections require a modem unless you are using your cell phone as a modem. There are packages that includes free modems and some that don’t which can be more expensive per month.

Continue reading “How to choose ISP or consumer Internet access in South Africa”


Algoa Sun interview with Ramon Thomas

The following interview was published on page 8 of the 31 July 2008 issue of the Algoa Sun, a community newspaper in Port Elizabeth. The title for the article was fascinating choice by the editor, The Ethics of IT Dating. I will add a scanned copy of the interview with their own intro to this post later today…

Question: You say that children below the age of 13 should not have cell-phones for health reasons do you not think that in todays world all kids should have access to an adult in case something does go wrong?

Yes, kids should have access to adults. However, the access that is required has always been there. Before cellphones parents had a relationship and understanding with the schools they go to as to when and how they are dropped off and collected after school, from sporting events or when traveling with the school. When visiting friends, arrangements were made with the parents of the friends to look after your children as if they were your own. This is a fear-based myth that cellphones is the only or safest way to make kids safe. The more you buy into a fear mindset, the more you create a dependency on technology or anything outside yourself. So in a very warped way technology has made people more insecure than ever before.

Question: Do you have kids? If so, are they allowed MXit and Facebook?

No I do not have any children because I am not married. I would only allow my own children access for for a limited time per day or on weekends. I recently bumped into a guy who was at school with me, and he has one son in high school and one in primary school. He treats them like this: they only get access for 1 hour on Saturdays between 5-6pm. This is radical, yes, but he succeeded as father by setting the ground rules from day 1.

Question: Do you believe parents should be more “internet and cell-phone aware”?

Parents need to understand that the technology is growing and improving at a vast rate. The best way they can maintain some sense of confidence about the technology is to cultivate an open discussion on a regular (weekly) basis with their children about technology. This is much easier than you may think, simply because technology is so high on the values of children. What I mean is you cannot stop them talking about it when you ask the right questions.

Question: Do you believe the internet is a good way to meet people and start dating?

I have used Internet dating successfully because I have been so persistent and made a tremendous effort to educate myself about the best ways to write my online dating profile. After hundreds articles, books and interviews, and comparisons with other forms of dating and the psychology of attraction, I do not believe its the best way to meet people. You will always have some uncertainly about that elusive obvious called “chemistry” with the opposite sex. So overall your chances are very slim to find a compatible match and sustain the relationship. I consider my last relationship, which lasted about 18 months; as well as best friend of mine, who married a woman he met on www.datingbuzz.com, the exceptions.
Continue reading “Algoa Sun interview with Ramon Thomas”


Worm attacks Facebook, MySpace users running Microsoft Windows

Facebook Worm ScreenshotGareth Roberts, a new member of the team here at NETucation,  alerted me to a new computer worm that attacks Facebook and MySpace users. One very important piece of information left out of most of the news reports on News24 or MyADSL is that ONLY on users running Microsoft Windows are prone to this attract. Facebook users receives links to download the worm via Inbox messages from infected users while links are posted in MySpace commentaries when infected MySpace users log into their account. Current variant of the worm is faked as a codec installer named as codecsetup.exe. When the worm is ran, a dialog box will pop up with the message “Error installing Codec. Please contact support“.

These days I use an Apple Macbook Pro (thanks Google.org!) running the Mac OS X operating system that is substantially more secure than MS Windows. The most important thing to remember with your computer security is to avoid clicking on anything unfamiliar or that you do not understand. Delete suspicious emails on sight and ask your ISP to enable spam filtering before those emails even get to your computer or laptop. In 99% of the cases you won’t miss a thing…

Yes, this may sound like a paranoid approach to conducting your on. However, all computer viruses or worms have spread exactly because Internet users have been gullible. The explosion in use of social networking websites was always going to create new outlets for th creators of computer viruses or worms. Facebook has over 90 million active users and MySpace has over 240 million profiles and most of these people are brand new to the Internet. When something is a novelty you are bound to click on almost anything. What has impressed me the most about the social networking phenomenon is how quickly users are adapting and learning from group behaviour.

According to McAfee this is a low risk virus so you should not panic. However, its important to look at this screenshot and this other one, so you know what to avoid. If you are sick and tired of the vicious upgrade and update cycle on Microsoft Windows why not try Ubuntu Linux.


Avoiding long distance relationships

You will always find people who have had success in a particular way of dating because there is such a vast number of variables at play. Long distance relationships for the most part give people a false hope or a lack of control in the outcome, and in my opinion kills your self-esteem.

When I think back to a girl I was dating during my time at university in Port Elizabeth, I recall how the tension escalated when I moved to Johannesburg. A year later she moved to Stellenbosch to pursue an Honours degree in Chemistry. I would never again get involved in a long distance because it was doomed from the beginning. The signs were there but I chose to ignore them.

Some fascinating research from the Journal of Family Relations is that couples who marry from a long-term relationship may still be in the idealized state. This impairs their ability to be realistic in their evaluation of the other. Your biggest challenge today is not even that the person you are dating is another city. Imagine where they are in their minds when they are chatting away on Facebook or MXit?