President’s Podium

I had an opportunity to give a brief talk at the recent IDC CIO summit and thought I would share an extract of my speech with you.

“We’ve experienced so much negativity in our country over the past few months. In 2015 we had finance ministers coming out of our ears.  And let’s not forget all the drama which unfolded earlier this year with inappropriate comments that were made on social media.

And what about now?

We are begging the rating agencies not to downgrade the country’s credit rating to junk status.  We’ve experienced major drought, our farmers are grieve stricken over the loss of livestock and crop and as a result the price of food is increasing.  I have stopped counting the number of interest rate hikes we’ve had and oh by the way, before I forget, the price of fuel is also going to increase.

Nothing like a bit of doom and gloom to start off the day.

But to all the optimists in the room, I say, the country will recover from all of this and to the pessimists I say, I think the bars open at 12:00.

So why is there hope for us? Because Toby Shapshack said so. Toby Shapshak is an editor, columnist and strategist speaker.  He writes and speaks about how innovation is better in Africa. His TED talk on how Africa is solving real problems has had over 1.4 million views and I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at a conference.  He goes on to list the number of innovations which were borne out of Africa eg:

  • Pay as you go which was invented by Vodacom,
  • Mpesa which is a mobile payment system.

He puts huge emphasis on innovation out of necessity.

We complain all the time (and I am also guilty thereof) that we don’t have enough or adequate bandwidth but let’s work around the problem. Let’s be more like Elon Musk. Although I don’t necessarily think he is the nicest guy, he is making a difference in this world. And guess what he is from Pretoria.

So Toby inspired me and I decided to do some of my own research and see what else was invented by South Africans.

CAT Scan
The Computed Axial Tomography Scan or CAT was developed by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield. This resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

Speed Gun
Henri Johnson invented the Speedball in 1992. The device accurately measures the speed and angles of speeding objects such as cricket and tennis balls. Watching a cricket game would not be the same without this nifty little piece of technology.

Kreepy Krauly
One of the more famous inventions was the swimming pool vacuum cleaner which was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier from Springs. Chauvier tried to figure out a way to take the hassle out cleaning his pool. The result was the Kreepy Krauly and the first one was created in 1974.

Physicist Louis Liebenberg and computer scientist Lindsay Steventon created the Cybertracker in 1996. This device is used to track animals of all shapes and sizes, it uses a satellite navigational system that allows scientists to keep tabs on tagged animals.  

And the list goes on.

South Africans can be incredibly creative in order to help other people and make our lives better.

However we must not forget that with innovation comes a sense of responsibility, ethics, integrity and professionalism.  We need to make sure that our products are safe.

So, my challenge to everyone out there: don’t get grumpy if your CEO or CFO cuts your IT budget. We are a nation of innovators so welcome the challenge.  Let’s be victorious in what we do and not be victims.

My wish, other than a cupboard full of Gucci bags, is that we see more innovation and disruption which is brought about by the citizens of this amazing country.