4 new speakers added to the lineup

With less than a month away to the start of Tech4Africa, we are pleased to announce 4 additional speakers to our already impressive lineup.

First up is the current President of Computer Society South Africa, Adrian Schofield. Adrian has held numerous titles in the digital world in South Africa, and will share his expertise and insights as the Master of Ceremonies for the duration of the conference.

Joining the already powerful line-up of panelists on the “Are we fundable?” panel, Invenfin Venture Capital CEO, Brett Commaille, brings a wealth of venture capital and startup investing knowledge to the table. Brett, who advises on the board of several start-ups in South Africa will share the ins-and-outs with prospective entrepreneurs and help them achive their ultimate goals.

Managing Director of one of Tech4Africa’s foundation partners, Internet Solutions, Dereck Wilcocks, will also be sharing his thoughts during the opening remarks discussion on the first day. Dereck has been part of the IS family almost since day dot, and will share why Internet Solutions, is so excited to be part of the Tech4Africa family.

Last and certainly not least , Wesley Lynch from Cape Town based web agency, realmdigital, will be sharing his mobile knowledge with other the other panelists on the “All you need to know about the mobile market” panel. The panel will be taking a look at how the mobile industry is changing daily and how we can overcome the sometime tricky challenges we are faced with.

For the full bios of these and all the other speakers at Tech4Africa, be sure to check out our speakers page.

Global experts to share knowledge at Tech4Africa workshops

Some of the world’s leading minds in the fields of technology architecture, user-interface and product development will be sharing their experience and skills in four full-day workshops ahead of the Tech4Africa conference, on the 10th and 11th of August.

The professionals in charge of the workshops have extensive experience of working on products or systems that enable them to compete globally. These intensive workshops therefore aim to impart practical skills that the delegates can apply in their own products and projects.

* Andy Budd, will be presenting ‘A masterclass in Usability and Accessibility’ to help delegates understand the requirements in planning, organising and moderating usability tests. As MD and User Experience Director of UK-based ClearLeft web design agency, Andy is a regular speaker at international design events such as SXSW, has helped judge several international design awards, is on the advisory board for .Net magazine, and is the author of the best selling book, CSS Mastery.

* Jonathan Snook and John Resig, will be leading the workshop on architecting applications for the web. The former is a widely-recognised expert in his field, He is currently working at Yahoo! as a front-end engineer on the company’s web interface. The latter is a JavaScript Tool Developer for the Mozilla and the creator and lead developer of the jQuery JavaScript library.
They will be sharing their knowledge on best practices for developing applications and how to do so while letting developers work faster and with greater agility without sacrificing robustness or security.

* Erin Caton, a Senior Engineering Project Manager at Apple, will be presenting a strategic look at the digital project implementation lifecycle. The focus will be on acquiring project management skills and methodologies, effective use of different software and platforms and client and development team communications and management.

* Sarah Blake, head of optimisation at Quirk eMarketing, a local Internet marketing consultancy, will be dissecting the proper and effective use of Google Analytics and how to gain maximum benefit from this service.

Delegates can expect to gain essential knowledge that they can apply in their own environment, and that the workshops are designed not only for developers, but also for business users who wish to improve their knowledge.

Registration for each workshop is now open. Be quick! Don’t miss the discounted tickets for early birds, or get R500 off if you buy a conference and workshop ticket together.

Cloud Computing in Africa

A few years ago large companies were faced with the dilemma of having to upgrade servers and mainframes and ensure their online businesses didn’t collapse as demand rose. This would often lead to increased expenditure, and downtime to existing platforms. Today, as the web grows, online businesses are starting to  worry less and less about this with the concept of “Cloud Computing”.

The concept of “Cloud Computing” is a relatively new one in African terms, and at Tech4Africa, we will share our insights with a couple of experts who will be taking a look at how you can ensure that your business and online presence is “always on” and available.

First up, ex Digg Lead architect, Joe Stump, will take show us that scaling in any online business is crucial to it’s success, in his talk titled “Every Cloud has a Silver lining. Scaling to infinity and beyond”.
Joe, who now holds the title of CTO at SimpleGeo, a web based GIS data provider, will take us through the process of scaling your servers to ensure minimal downtime, and ensuring your business has robust & scalable infrastructure in place.

Also taking a look at cloud computing from an African perspective is Fred Baumhardt from Microsoft South Africa. His talk, “A contrarian view to cloud computing and virtualisation”, takes a reality check and looks at the issues of the African relevance of the virtualisation and cloud computing phenomenon currently sweeping the world. He will offer advice on how businesses can take advantage of these relatively new solutions.

South African tech journalist and host of the popular ZA Tech Show podcast, Simon Dingle, will also chair a panel of local & international experts on the topic, in a panel discussion called “Is Cloud Computing Relevant?”. The panel will discuss how “The Cloud” is relevant to businesses as well as the average consumer in Africa. The discussion will also focus on what mistakes to avoid when taking the plunge into “Cloud Computing

If your company needs to start implementing these solutions,be sure to register for Tech4Africa now. Places are running out, so be sure to register soon.

eMarketing for your business

Fact: Your brand is key to any successful online business.

Your brand is often associated with the product before the person, and making your brand stand out is of utmost importance in the race to be number one on the web. But how do you do this cost effectively yet with the best results ?

One of the must-attend talks at Tech4Africa will show you how to do this. Titled “Brand Building Online”, Super Digital Ninja, Alex Hunter will show you the key to ensuring your business gets ahead and stays ahead of the pack. Hunter, who previously served as the global Head of Online marketing at The Virgin Group, takes us through his experiencing in taking Virgin America to one of the top brands in the Unites States. He now serves as a brand consultant and micro-venture capital investor to numerous companies around the world, and will be sure to share his do’s and dont’s in the world of online marketing and branding.

Later in the day a panel of South African digital marketing guru’s will be sharing the stage to chat about “Search and the Enterprise”. Panelists will share how to ensure your business is number in the search stakes. The panel includes top online marketing agency, Quirk eMarketing CEO Rob Stokes, as well as Tom Van den Berckt from Cape Town based Clicks2Customers. Completing the panel is Pete Brooke-Sumner who gained a local insight while setting up the local Google office, and now runs the Cape Town office of The Media Image.

South Africa’s marketing maven, Walter Pike, will also share his expertise in a panel discussion “There’s an elephant in the room. Embracing the new, social web”, which takes place earlier in the day on the 13th.

Tech4Africa will also host a full day workshop focused on eMarketing, The workshop, titled “Google University” will be facilitated by Sarah Blake from Quirk eMarketing will show delegates the wonderful world of Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Sarah will take you through how to optimise these tools to gain the best return for your business.

With a lineup like this, you will be sure to walk away from Tech4Africa knowing your online marketing skills will be fully enriched.

Be sure to register for the conference soon, as time, as well as places are running out.

From Africa to the world, with love

African technology to compete on a global stage

By Gareth Knight, managing director at Technovated and Tech4Africa conference organiser

Blurb: The landing of a series of undersea cables is going to solve an infrastructural problem that has long plagued Africa and will enable African technology developers to compete on a global stage. In order to properly realise the full potential of a global customer base, African technologists need to not only expose their work to the world, but to also expose themselves to the learnings and insights that the developed world has to offer.

New international submarine communication cables are starting to ring the continent, bringing with them the promise of cheaper broadband across the continent. That means Africa will soon have the infrastructure to be able to compete more effectively in the online space than it did in the past. But Africa has missed out on several years of important learning in this space. Now is the perfect time for African entrepreneurs to embrace business and technical expertise from the rest of the world and close that gap.

An all-too common and incorrect perception in South Africa and other parts of the continent is that African problems are different to those experienced anywhere else in the world, and that they should be addressed with uniquely African solutions. According to this view of the world, international best practices and experiences, especially those from developed countries, are not really applicable to African businesses. That is a misguided and parochial perspective in a world where technology and global trade have shrunk the world to a fraction of its former size.

In high-tech industries, such as Web-focused businesses, there is much that African entrepreneurs, public servants and technicians can learn from international experience. In fact, it’s imperative that African businesses embrace international experience and knowledge if they’re to catch up with what their peers are doing online in the rest of the world.

African challenges

Of course, Africa has infrastructure, political and social challenges that are not present in most parts of the world. Building an online business in an environment where the electricity supply is unreliable and where international bandwidth is slow and expensive is fraught with challenges that don’t exist for an entrepreneur building a business in the heart of Silicon Valley.

But in addition to their superb infrastructure, innovation hubs like the west and east coasts of the USA also offer an unrivaled depth of human capital. Whatever an entrepreneur’s business idea is, there are people around who have the experience and skills to help make it a reality. And of course, the more that experienced people share their skills and knowledge with each other, the more new ideas and concepts they come up with and the more successful they are turning their innovations into commercial products.

By contrast, an African entrepreneur trying to productise a nifty new mobile application or a new online service simply doesn’t have access to many local people who have the skills and experience. There is an abundance of great ideas and enthusiasm but a lack of experience in turning these ideas into commercial products.

There have been a few success stories – innovators such as Mark Shuttleworth, Elon Musk and Vinny Lingham come to mind – but they are exceptions to the rule and their skills are often lost to Africa when their businesses take off. An additional problem that becomes obvious from the above list, is that South Africans dominate the list of obvious success stories while technologists from the rest of Africa do not feature as highly.

Universal lessons

Most of the processes, technology and tools that African entrepreneurs will be using to create Web and mobile products and services will be similar to those used by people in other parts of the world. There are many universal lessons around project management, usability, product development, technology and many other areas that apply anywhere in the world, and they’re ones many American and European pioneers had to learn the hard way. Speccing and configuring a server, designing a good user interface, managing cashflow – these are all things that work the same way anywhere in the world.

So why not learn from international experience? The alternative is to stubbornly waste time and money reinventing the wheel and making the mistakes that others have already made. And that is something that no African entrepreneur can afford to do.


The Tech4Africa conference being held in August this year, aims to address the above issues by bringing a number of world famous technologists and African innovators to South Africa to share, teach and interact with Africans looking to make it in the technology space. It’s an exciting time for African technology and the opportunity that Tech4Africa presents is one that really shouldn’t be missed.

If you liked what you read, take a look at this interesting article published by memeburn.com featuring Gareth’s ideas behind the conference: Tech4Africa conference driven by “anger and pride”.

Have your say in the technology community, Expose Tech4Africa

One of our goals for Tech4Africa is to make it an open community for sharing, discussing and promoting the Web, mobile and emerging technologies in Africa.

Although all of us want to listen to the enriching insights and experiences Clay Shirky and other thinkers and entrepreneurs like Erik Hersman have to offer, we know that there are many others out there who are thinking or doing, and which should be highlighted.

So, when looking at the ways we can make Tech4Africa a space for interaction way beyond the conference itself, we decided to give the opportunity to any person in the technology industry in Africa to speak for themselves and show what they think or do to their peers.

We call it Expose Tech4Africa, which is going to start off as a section in the conference’s website, and it will work like this:

Who can participate:

  • Anyone building a product using web, mobile or emerging technology, in Africa – profile your product.
  • Anyone offering services, in web, mobile or emerging technologies, in Africa – profile your company.
  • Anyone looking for funding for their product – tell people why they should fund you.
  • Anyone with something to say about tech in Africa – everyone has an opinion, make yours heard.
  • Anyone that wants to profile themselves, their skills, their passions, and what they’re working on – find collaborators, get hired, find new projects, meet new people.

How to participate:

  1. Record a 5 minute max video or podcast showcasing your product, service, start-up, or your thoughts on any Tech4Africa related topic of your expertise.
  2. Send us an email to “hello@t4a” with a little intro about yourself, and what your post is about. Also, include your contact details.
  3. We’ll either send you FTP details to upload, or ask you for the file location to download.
  4. We will then post the video in the Tech4Africa community page on our website, in a post on our blog, and in the Tech4Africa channel in Zoopy.
  5. We’ll then Tweet and Blog about it for you.
  6. We’ll leave the rest to the magic of social interaction.

Helpful tips:

  1. Have an opinion, be provocative, say something worth listening to.
  2. Keep your points succinct, to the point, and try not to waffle.
  3. Do it somewhere quiet, so background noise doesn’t get in the way. Try not to shake the video either.
  4. Audacity is great for recording audio, and is free.
  5. Record video with your phone, Skype or any other default video recorder, then upload.  Your video does not need to be studio quality.
  6. Get some friends to have a look / listen before you send.

We encourage you to take this opportunity to make yourself be heard and share your knowledge or experiences. We’re excited about this idea and we hope it can trigger more  conversation among all those working in the African tech industry.

Over to you 😉

Infrastructure: Mobile & Wireless at Tech4Africa

Living in today’s day and age we are bombarded with new information all the time. Community news from users on platforms such as Twitter, are breaking news before as it happens. The issue with this though, is that we are not always connected. We rely on mobile connectivity and wireless infrastructure to try and keep us connected as efficiently as possible.

At Tech4Africa, we will be discussing some of the key factors when it comes to Mobile & Wireless connectivity in South Africa & Africa.

Some of the great speakers talking about Mobile & Wireless infrastructure include Agosto Liko, Patrick Kayton, South African Internet guru Arthur GoldStuck & Angus Robinson amongst others.

The indomitable Justin Spratt will also be sharing his views in a session called “Circumventing Monopolies with VoIP and Wireless”, where he will be taking a look at how the fixed line monopolies of Africa are rapidly being overtaken by new Mobile & Wireless technologies.

Another fantastic session scheduled for later in the day, on the 1st day of the conference, is a panel discussion aptly titled “Mobile Content for Grownups, Being Clever with the simple”. Panelists include Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation, Fritz Ekowge & Stefan Magadalinski representing Kenya’s largest Mobile directory, Mocality, are just some of the big names talking about how our “mobile lives” have changed since the grand old Nokia 3210 ring tone days. Content is important today and they will look at where the mobile industry is going, and how to ensure it is world class.

These are just some of the exciting Mobile and Wireless infrastructure talks you can look forward to at Tech4Africa. Check our full schedule to find our more.

We are also running workshops (10th and 11th of August) featuring some of the best world’s leading minds in the fields of technology architecture, user-interface and product development; check them out here.

Be sure to register soon, as the early bird tickets are being scooped up rather quickly.

Image by Creative Commons / Google (Image)