Tech4Africa 2011 – Our highlights

Origin Interactive @ Tech4Africa

The highlight of last week for us at Origin Interative was the Tech4Africa 2011 conference! What an exciting and well organisied affair! Thanks Gareth Knight

Amidst the high caliber of technology-thought leaders speaking at the conference this year, two stood up for their commitment to the technological advancement of the African continent; Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, an inventor with two doctoral and four master’s degrees including a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, reminded delegates that technological innovation must not be reduced to the scope of Information and Communication Technology on a continent facing problems that cannot be solved by ICT alone. Ekekwe echoed a recurring theme of the conference – Africa must look within its own borders for solutions to our unique challenge and the time for it is now! By fostering intellectual ownership of these solution, we can capitalise on them more sustainably than imported solutions. Even though much of what Ekekwe said went way over our heads, his passion for driving truly African innovation needed no translation.

Herman Chinery-Hesse, the only African recipient of the “Distinguished Alumnus Award” is the co-founder of SOFTtribe, one of the leading software houses in West Africa and described by the BBC as Africa’s Bill Gates. Herman quickly captured a packed auditorium with his charisma and the way he ‘gangstered’ his way through the emerging African technology market over the last 19 years. He believes that “If Africa misses the current global IT boat, there may never again be an opportunity for rapid wealth creation on the continent.”

We were also truly inspired once again by the great work that the Praekelt Foundation is doing in harnessing the power of mobile technology to address one of the world’s gravest health crises. Their Project Masiluleke leverages the wide usage of mobile devices in South Africa to help fight the country’s clipping HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics through providing a free service to HIV and TB infected people prompting and educating them on better managing their illness.

Their Young Africa Live initiative is a mobile platform aimed at educating and empowering young people to be more proactive in their fight against HIV/AIDS that is entertainment-oriented, fun, interactive, and provocative. The Young Africa Live platform does not simply state the facts and “lecture” young people about the dos and don’ts, but rather create a space where young South Africans could talk about hot topics that affect their daily lives: love, sex, relationships, gender and cultural issues, as well as HIV/AIDS.

On a slightly more geeky note, Robert Nyman’s talk on keeping a pragmatic focus on HTML5 and its relation to the open web showcased some of the new opportunities and rich experiences allowed by the development of a standardised web architecture. The Star Wars references didn’t hurt either

Other speakers who made a lasting impression for their role in the advancement of User Experience Design were Rian van der Merwe (kalahari.com) and our friends at Clear Left(UK) James Box and Cennydd (pronounced Kenneth!) Bowles.

And so it was two days greatly spent at the T4A 2011 conference! It was a privilege to partner with Gareth and the rest of the T4A team and we look forward to next year already!