In search of our 2010 ICT story …


by Prof Barry Dwolatzky


In 2006 the 2010 FIFA World Cup was more than 1,500 days away. I set my 4th year Engineering students a challenge for their final year project. “Imagine hundreds of thousands of football fans visiting our country. While in South Africa, enjoying the World Cup, they find some amazing, innovative, exciting ICT applications. They see things being done in software and hardware that really impresses them.” I asked my students to develop a proof-of-concept prototype of some such innovative application.

Two of my students rose to the challenge. They developed a concept where players on the field wore minature cameras. Spectators in the stands could use their cell phones to select a player of their choice, and then watch the play from the viewpoint of that player’s wearable camera. The students had great fun developing a relatively simple prototype that demonstrated their concept.

At the end of 2006 the students left Wits and there was no-one with the resources or time to develop their concept further. Quite a pity, now that I think about it!!

With the World Cup now a few weeks away: What will the South African ICT sector show that will thrill, amaze … or even vaguely interest … the foreign fans who are about to visit us. Will any of them say, when they get back home “I saw this really amazing ICT application that was developed by a South African company”.

Has the local ICT sector missed a chance to bathe in the spotlight that is about to fall on us?  Maybe I just don’t know! Maybe there are amazing applications that I’ve just missed.  Is anyone able to enlighten me?

3 Replies to “In search of our 2010 ICT story …”

  1. Tendani

    Hi all,

    What I have observed from peers is that we as South African’s are too busy playing around, testing (unknowingly so) and using products (gadgets) from other countries to recognise our own intrinsic creativity. My experience has also lead me to believing that we tend to undermine our ideas because of comparisons with the international community. While it is good to compare we need to also remember that South Africa is unique.

    Being a Doctoral student myself I thought I would get a window into great South African innovation and also participate in ideas for the future. That has not happened because that community of researchers with interest in South Africa does not seem to really exist.

    I have three ideas that I will like to share that we need to ponder and perhaps debate directly and honestly:

    (1) The need South African research sessions to share ideas with definite plans not just proof of concepts.
    (2) For academic institutions, the interest on research work that is South African focused
    (3) The incentives for young minds to enable them not disappear into industry after completing their studies.

  2. Nathi

    Hi all,

    I agree with both of you. I think one of the reasons is that we do not work together and share all these ideas. But also contributing to the lack of confidence are the decision makers in big corporate, they still believe an off shelf package which does half of what they want and cost millions is better than a local or inhouse solution which will give them all their requirements at very low cost.

    My suggestions are:
    1. Let us create an environment where we care share ideas.
    2. Let us open source our solutions (frameworks, tools, patterns, etc.) that we create while working for these corporates
    3. We must collaborate, for example I have applications that I work on when I get home but because I work alone I never have enough time to finish them or let people know about what I am doung.
    4. We also need a strategy as how to grow talent in SA, currently it is very hard to find good developers. For now I do not have ideas as to how we can tackle this problem.

  3. Adrian Schofield

    Sadly, Barry is right. We are not good at blowing our collective trumpet (although we seem to be making an exception with the vuvuzela) about the achievements of our ICT sector. Most of the visitors for the SWC (and the nations around the world glued to their TV sets) will take it for granted that we have the communications infrastructure to handle the event, the visitors and the broadcasts. Some will complain that speeds across the network are slower than they are used to but very, very few will recognise the achievement of installing and implementing the technology.

    But all that is on the grand scale. What of Tendani and Nathi’s points about growing talent from a more personal level? We, as an industry, must work with government to create a REAL incubator environment, where the culture of research, innovation and invention is fostered and funded in suitable premises attached to the high speed network. The Department of Communications was intended to have post-SWC sustainability plans for the Broadcast Centre at NASREC. How about it?

Comments are closed.