Virtaal translation tool released

Dwayne Bailey sent a message to the over 400 members of group on Facebook. has just released a first version of our desktop translation tool called Virtaal.  Before you think its about automagic translation from English to Xhosa, its not.  It is a tool designed to be used by a human translating a document, with aids to make them productive and ensure quality.

Its Open Source so you can hack on it.  And if your a programmer with Python experience we’re still hiring.

Our first aim is localisation, but we do want the tool to grow to the point where it is a highly productive environment for professional translators.

This work is made possible with funding from the IDRC and Mozilla Corporation.


IT Security & Cyber Forensics Conference

World famous hacker, Kevin MitnickToday I am speaking at the Marcus Evans IT Security & Cyber Forensics conference. The subtitle for this conference is: Mitigating IT security risks through improved processes and innovative investigations

The inspiration for my talk is based on two books by the most famous hacker in the world, Kevin Mitnick: The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruder and the The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. In 2003 I established contact with his agent in United States of America to bring him to South Africa. After a very long negotiation period and with assistance from ITWeb he eventually made to sunny South Africa in 2006. It was my pleasure to meet him and have his books autographed. I really have to find that photo we took together. However, I know it won’t be the last time we met. His story has been written up in many books and one of them made into the B-grade Hollywood movie Takedown. When you meet a living legend like this its pretty awesome feeling. However, when you know, in your heart that you had a stake in bringing him to South Africa, it is inspirational. This is one of the things that got me “fired” from FNB’s Randburg Computer Centre in 2003.

Date: 16-17 Oct 2008
Location: The Forum, Wonderers Building, The Campus, Bryanston, Gauteng.

My topic: The Human Element in IT Security

Anyway here is the overview from the Marcus Evans event information page:

Over the last decade IT technology has grown and developed substantially. These new developments where meant to streamline operations but they have also created new breaches in security allowing data and valuable intellectual information to be exposed to competitors. Organisations thus need to start using more advanced forms of investigation to identify its vulnerable points, and cyber forensics is starting to play a crucial role in identifying those individuals and organisations involved in sabotaging your system. Every company uses electronic information extensively to support their daily business processes. Data is stored on customers, products, contracts, financial results, accounting etc. If this electronic information were to become available to competitors or to become corrupted, false or disappear, it will greatly hinder business functioning.

With the increased attention on IT security and cyber forensics, IT professionals are discovering that security information threats do not only fall in the hands of hackers and external forces but in this day and age, 50% of all security threats are internal. This creates major concerns for corporates who not only need to hide their important information from their competitors but now also their employees. As the world moves towards the wireless age, IT security needs to grow and develop to ensure the safety of information no matter what the form it is being transmitted in. By attending this conference you will be able to gain insight on cyber forensics processes, identifying an attack and who is attacking you. You will also be able to identify which information is at risk and who we should be watching out for both internally and externally.

Other Key Speakers

Jason Jordaan
Head of Cyberforensics , Special Investigating Unit SOUTH AFRICA

Poppy Tshabalala
Chief Information Officer, Department of Trade and Industry

Stephen Mark
Information Security Officer, Discovery

William Stucke
Chairman, AfrISPA

Evans Nyagah
Head of IT , Telkom Kenya

Key Topics

  • Creating an awareness of IT security threats through constant monitoring and clear communication of potential security violations
  • Analysing new hostile trends that are emerging in our internet landscape
  • Applying cyber forensics pro-actively to create a more secure IT environment
  • Promoting access control though innovative measures to demotivate and prevent • Promoting access control though innovative measures to demotivate and prevent • Promoting access control though innovative measures to demotivate and prevent unauthorised personnel accessing confidential networks
  • Considering the threat Auditing has on your IT security system and information security in general

For a more detailed overview of my backgroun in Information Security or IT Security industry visit my LinkedIn profile.


Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact

Mobile Active 2008 South African NGO NetworkThe Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) and will host the MobileActive08 Summit from 13-15 October 2008 at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg. The theme of the event is “Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact”.

With more than 350 confirmed participants from over 40 countries, this will be the largest international event to date focusing on this topic and one of the most important ICT4D events to be hosted in Africa in 2008.

Speaking at the end of September 2008 at the United Nations in New York during a high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré, announced that worldwide mobile cellular subscribers are likely to reach the 4 billion mark before the end of this year. “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that it is a viable business opportunity”, he stated. “Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs.”

However, even with ubiquity of access, the challenge to development practitioners and technology experts is how best to adapt and translate growth and innovation in mobile technology in support of specific development challenges. As a result, there is an urgent need to share lessons learned to date and explore the most effective use of this technology.

At MobileActive08, participants will explore how mobile phones are used to advance development work in different parts of the world, assess the current state of knowledge in the use and effectiveness of mobile technology to advance social action, and investigate trends, needs and investment opportunities. Specific attention will be given to the role of mobile technology in health, human rights, economic development, research, advocacy, citizen journalism and democratic participation.

According to David Barnard, Executive Director of SANGONeT, “During the first day and a half of the event more than 60 speakers will share their experiences through a variety of workshops and skill-share sessions, rotating mini-talks, SIMlabs and SIMplaces. The second part of MobileActive08 will be conducted in an ‘open space’ format where participants will delve more deeply into the topics discussed during the first part of the event.”

Some of the key mobile experts that will make presentations at the event include Brian Richardson of Wizzit, Jonathan Donner of Microsoft, Peter Benjamin of Cell-Life, Russell Southwood of Balancing Act and Erik Hersman of Ushahidi.

Go to the MobileActive website for the detailed information about the programme and speakers.

Delegates will include NGO and development practitioners, mobile technologists, researchers studying the use of mobile phones, government officials, and representatives from the international donor community and telecommunications industry.

The MobileActive08 Summit is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Microsoft, Department of Communications, Vodacom, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership, HIVOS, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Ford Foundation and Torque IT.

SANGONeT’s new corporate identity and the new SANGONeT NGO Portal, NGO Pulse, will also be launched during the event.

For additional comments and media accreditation, please contact:

David Barnard, Executive Director
Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT)
Tel: (011) 403-4935 or Cell: 082 870-8968

“Linking civil society through ICTs”


Interview Zooming In On Men, SABC3

Pepsi Pokana, host Zooming in on Men SABC3On Sunday, 21 September I was interviewed in a pre-recorded episode “Dating Games” for the fascinating show Zooming In On Men (ZOIM). ZOIM now in it’s 2nd season is broadcast Sundays at 4.30pm, following Car Torque, with the target market being the mature South African man – apparently the rest of the media believes we are in short supply!

Anyway this is the first television show where I was introduced as South Africa’s #1 Dating Coach aka Hitch…lol…The host Pepsi Pokana and his wife, who does the make-up, helped me relax quickly and the director, the camera crew and sound engineers have by far been the most professional I have worked with in the broadcasting industry in South Africa. I was extremly confortable before and afterwards the filming of my segment.

Melanie Son, the content producer confirmed the following transmission information:

  • Channel : SABC 3
  • Date: Sunday, 26th October 2008
  • Time: 16h30

More about this show that I highly recommend for all men. And for women who want to understand men, instead of trying to “fix” them:

Zooming in on Men is a quirky, humorous television property that is partly influenced by, but not limited to, men’s print formats like Best Life, GQ and magazines like Afropolitan, Tribute and Blaque. It is an entertaining, engaging and informative platform that moves away from being merely a lifestyle show, but rather uses topics relevant to men to create a space where “real men talk” about the variety of issues that affect, confound, inspire, anger and humour them. One of the key pillars behind this new season of ZIOM is to create a platform where we can laugh at ourselves in our exploration of the constructs of Masculinity. We discuss debate, argue, laugh and experience a range of topics ranging from the serious to the frivolous. The show, hosted by an anchor host, supported by a comedian, will be studio-based, which serves as the foundation for the show. It will be driven by the banter between our two hosts and their interaction with the various guests in studio. The space will reflect men and their interests. Each show is driven by a topic/theme, and all the elements in an episode serve to explore the relevant topic. The core of the show is the conversation between men, which will happen in our location studio.

Target Market: Urban men aged 25-40


Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Last year I blogged about more efficient living in Johannesburg. This year I plan to blog about something my plan to solve poverty in Uitenhage over the next 20 years. All South African bloggers should get directly involved in Blog Action Day 2008 because poverty is the root cause of crime, health and all other social ills we face on the southern tip of Africa. Who needs politicians anyway? Stop voting while you are at it.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


PR 2.0 Blogging Workshop with Marlon Parker's Team

Tomorrow, I am training a team of loyal drug counsellors from Impact Direct Ministries on how to use blogging to get themselves onto television, radio, newspapers or magazines – all things I have done because of my blogging. They are learning fast and furiously about technology from Marlon Parker, senior lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Marlon is a Ph.D candidate who is doing his thesis on how technology can be used for social change and conflict management.

Marlon Parker personally trains recovered and reformed drug addicts from the Cape Flats on how to use technology like MXit to do a form of peer-counselling using South Africa’s #1 cellphone-based IM and social network. After meeting Brent Williams, one of the drug counsellors, who came to 3rd annual Digital Citizen Indaba and Highway Africa this year, I resolved to use all the resource to assist them.

Marlon Parker’s work is ground breaking in a global sense. However, the facts speak for themselves because he is doing this with ZERO budget! Yes, he is doing this with sheer willpower and determinations and no corporate or government funding! He is doing what the MXit (Pty) Ltd even with allmighty Naspers Ltd behind it, has not been able to deliver after two years of promises. This MXit/Facebook/cellphone-based online counselling project is helping hundreds of children from the Western Cape to find their way on their own personal hero’s journey.

With your assistance we can reach half of the approximately 9 million users by 2010. The more children we help, the more families we assist, the stronger the communities become in self reliance and mutual aid across South Africa.


Ramon Thomas ends association with DBS Human Capital


I am in the process of issuing a letter of demand against directors, Nia Maritz and Peter Jeffrey as well as their company DBS Human Capital (Pty) Ltd ( for non-payment for organising the Women4Women conference on 5 October 2007 and work done in preparation of the next conference to be held on Friday, 24 October 2008 in Cape Town. While preparing for the 2nd conference to be held later this month a dispute about payment arose between us.

My attorneys have instructed me not to published any details until they have reviewed the list of demands and checked all the facts with everyone involved in 2007 and 2008 conferences.

What is a letter of demand? Read more here.

Ramon Thomas