The Brainstorm Cape conference had all the excitement of Woodstock. The turn-out of thought leaders and key decision- makers turned grown people into star-struck concert-goers. IT IS SELDOM that an ICT conference takes on the suppressed excitement of a pending rock concert, but the news that Old Mutual CIO was due to speak had that effect for the first day of the Brainstorm Cape conference this year.

Brainstorm Cape was held in lieu of the Futurex expo and conference, which was cancelled this year.

The conference was aimed towards Cape-based ICT companies, many of which are small and medium enterprises.

While there has been a succession of such conferences this year, many have either addressed very broad issues, or have been highly focused on specialised areas, in so doing excluding many local companies.


"The problem with Cape Town is that we very seldom have enough appearances by key decision-makers who can talk directly to the local companies, as we have here," said Paul Hartley, business manager for ITWeb Informatica.

Hartley shared the chair with South Africa consultant .

The excitement over Nkone`s address was apparently due to the fact that this was his first public speaking event in the country since assuming his position in January.

His talk on the changing role of the CIO struck a cord with many delegates, who said they identified with the overall change in IT, changing from a technology-centric role to becoming an integral part of the overall business.

"Eventually, the CIO must see him or herself as `CEO of a business called IT`," he said.


Adding to the rocky vibe, the star-jostling following his talk did not disappoint.

Nkone was swamped with business cards from delegates ich could be seen as a more subdued version of throwing underwear - calling cards of another kind, on stage.

Nirvesh Sooful, City of Cape Town CIO echoed Nkone`s statements, and pointed out that within government there are further demands on the CIO. This is especially true where local authorities are also responsible for economic and social delivery.

Projects that the Mother City has under its wing include the Smart Cape Access project, which aims to provide basic ICT services to the majority of the city`s population.

This follows a public access model, which allows computing facilities to be provided cost-effectively, using open source software and piggybacking off existing infrastructure.

"So far, about 100 separate communities, representing more than 500 access points with about 26 000 users, are linked with the project," Sooful said.

He said that a Mobile Smart Cape service should be launched by December this year.


`s Russell Achterberg rocked the boat when he hinted that Telkom could start deploying 4 Megabit-per-second lines into the home "sometime in the near future".

The bigger bandwidth is needed to transport Telkom`s triple-play offering of voice, video and data, which is currently being tested with content providers M-Net and DSTV.

What really upset the vibe is that this does not do away with the contentious issue of Telkom`s Internet cap, which will be separated out from the triple-play offering.

Bandwidth was the major bone of contention for , formerly of Mosaic Software and now with the South African Development Centre.

"A serious global Internet-based company is currently hard to justify in SA," he said.

Van Biljon pointed a finger at SA`s serious lack of bandwidth capacity compared to the US and other developed countries, where 155 Mps is the minimum bandwidth required to run a company.


"Unless something is done about it, South Africans will more and more be excluded from these services," he said.

Van Biljon compared the cost of obtaining bandwidth between the US and South Africa.

"In the US the business decision is to hire one developer or get connectivity, while in SA it is hire 100 developers or get Internet connectivity.

"High bandwidth costs have a serious impact on business development and innovation," he said.

Raven Naidoo of ICT consultancy Radian talked about the "iPod Generation", and described how portable devices have become a killer application in their own right.

"These portable devices are far from left-field, they are now part of the mainstream," he said.

Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VO-IP) was a topic for several speakers. Telesa Comms` Malcolm Dunkeld said VOIP does nothing for users, as it is purely a profit tool.

He warned companies against tampering with the telephone systems as "users see it as a right."


Dave Gale from telecoms company Storm advised companies to only consider implementing VOIP if they have more than one office.

It`s also an option if the company needs reliable Internet access, the telecoms bill is more than R4 000 per month, and when national and international calls make up more than 50% of the phone bill.

"If your answer to three or more of those is yes, then you should be considering VOIP," he said. Both Gale and Dunkeld advised that analysis and planning were essential to successful VOIP implementation.

This includes developing a list of business priorities, determining where and how VOIP will make a difference, migrating rather than leaping, and knowing that while the market is maturing, there is, generally, a lot to learn about the technology for users and suppliers alike.


from , in his presentation on "The Future of Networking," said that data, voice and video will continue to converge.

"This, together with the changing regulations in SA, will lead to fundamental changes in the way that connectivity, content, and voice services are charged for," he said.

Advice for small business was in plentiful supply.

Areef Suleman from the Industrial Development Corporation gave a run down on the Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII), which is designed to promote technology development in industry in SA through the provision of financial assistance for the development of innovative products and processes.

Suleman said the SPII receives an annual budget of about R100 million from Parliament, and it promotes technology development across all sectors.

Related to the SPII are the Product Process Development and Matching schemes, that are aimed at small, medium and micro companies where the maximum grant can be R500 000.

Suleman advised that projects should be in line with national objectives, such as job creation.

Liquid Thought`s Roger Strain said big business does do business with small companies. "However, the cultural fit, speaking the right language and experience all count."

Strain`s recommendation is that entrepreneurs should use the right technologies for the right reasons, that they should increase their ICT intelligence, and get good help to implement these technologies.

Demystifying the link between academic institutions and business was the task set for David Hislop, founder of IP firm Digital Rocket Science.

"I have no doubt technology innovation and universities go hand-in-handc. But VCs (venture capitalists) won`t look favourably on funding proposals involving years of research - regardless of the potential pay-off. It`s not that they are not interested in innovation. They just won`t fund innovation that takes time," he said.

Hislop also suggested that funding should be directed at innovation and research and development, and not cash flow.

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