Tech conference to 'inspire'

Cape Town - The Tech4Africa Conference 2010 kicks off in Johannesburg next week and the organisers hope to create an environment where participants can be inspired by speakers on all things digital.

"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,'" organiser Gareth Knight told News24.

Knight insisted that the internet in SA was changing rapidly in ways that many local experts could imagine.

"There's a shift on the web and we here in South Africa kind of a sense of it, but we don't really understand exactly what that means. People don't know what a 100 Megabit (Mbit/s) line feels like. In my home in the UK, I have an 8Mbit/s line for £20 (R232) per month and I come home and download at high speed," he said.

Broadband capacity

He said that while local experts understood the technology distance between SA and the developed world, it was difficult for them to relate to its experience in real terms. Cyber tools were changing the way people used the internet, Knight said.

"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.

He lamented the lack of broadband capacity in SA, despite the announcement recently by several internet service providers (ISPs) of uncapped access, but was hopeful that new players in the market would expand broadband to homes.

"We get the least traffic at the weekends because you can't use the internet from home. It's just too slow. When we do have the speed, behaviour will change and socio-activism is going to be huge. There are many people who don't have a voice, but have something to say," said Knight.

He said the line-up of speakers at the Tech4Africa Conference was designed to cater to the diverse nature of the web in SA, while also trying to contain costs.

Mobile internet

"It's been a four year journey to bring this event to South Africa; it's been a labour of love. Lets' face it, no one gives a damn about us because we're a small market and we have to do things for ourselves. People just aren't willing to spend the money to do the things that we talk about," he said.

"Look at how Google is spending money to cover all US towns with 100Mbit/s bandwidth. They know that once that is in place those people will use the internet," said Knight.

He foresees the growth in mobile internet while he believes businesses will remain largely wired.

"In our company in the UK, we have no servers in out buildings because everything is in the cloud, but here, we're a long way from that."

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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