Tech4Africa

'Technology is for everybody'

2010-08-04 14:38

Special Report

Information wars begin - expert
Information wars begin - expert

The expansion of the internet in developing countries and the resistance by governments signals the start of the information wars, an expert says.

Cape Town - Technology is for everybody, not just a group of "techies" because it has the power to change lives and the way we do things, says Tech4Africa Conference organiser Gareth Knight.

Knight comes across as a passionate crusader for web and argues for wider access to high speed broadband in SA.

"The world is changing because of the internet and we don't have the sense of the changes because we don't know what 100 Megabits (Mbit/s) feels like and what you can do with it," he told News24.

Knight is something of an internet veteran and is managing director of Technovated. He was educated as a zoologist and served as the product manager for MyHeritage.com before deciding to bring a technology conference to SA in something of a "eureka" moment.

"I went to the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in 2006 and it was a life-changing experience for me. I was able to interact with these great people and it gave me a new perspective. So I thought: 'Let's create the environment here so people can be inspired," said Knight.

Changes

He emphasises that in developed countries with high-speed internet access, behaviour changes and ordinary people make use of the internet both at work and home.

"Ordinary people in the US come home from work and edit Wikipedia (the free online encyclopaedia) and download shows to watch. In fact, many people use the internet as a replacement for TV. We don't have a sense of those changes here in South Africa," said Knight.

Speakers at the Tech4Africa Conference include international internet luminaries such as Clay Shirky, John Resig and Alex Hunter as well as local experts such as Adrian Schofield, Duncan McLeod and Arthur Goldstuck.

While critics may point out that few women are represented at the conference, some rather important female experts have emerged in what is a generally male-dominated industry in recent times.

Andrea Böhmert, who co-founded Cape Venture Partners, a specialist advisory services company to technology companies, Barbara Mallinson, who used her own savings, the backing of a UK Government Grant to create Obami, a social networking site that's been developed specifically for schools, and Basheera Khan, a user experience designer based in London are women who join the speakers line-up for the event.

The conference runs from August 12 - 13 2010 at The Forum in Bryanston and pre-event workshops will be held on August 10 - 11.


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