CIO Banquet 2017: Keynote Address Part 1 – Techpreneurs

Last week’s ITWeb & Brainstorm CIO Banquet featured the release of the 2017 CIO survey results at a prestigious gathering of top leaders in South Africa’s IT industry. I was privileged to present a keynote message in which I covered the role of business, government and education in the sector. I also touched on cyber-security, the importance of a city-level response to disruptive technology and the role of leaders through the empowering of cross-functional teams in the workplace.

“Tonight we’ll talk about a world that has changed dramatically in recent decades, turned upside down by technology that has fuelled exponential growth and connected the planet like never before. My message will be that we must ensure our local, home-grown South African IT industry continues to keep pace and makes its contribution so that we use technology to hook our growth to the global growth story. It’s a sad fact that in the last five years South Africa’s real economic growth no longer tracks the improving global growth story which is averaging at 3% while ours is trending downwards, as of this afternoon below 1% as we contract even further in continued uncertain times.

We continue to see a resilient SME environment

In 2016 the 5 most valuable firms in the world were all tech stocks and no doubt the explosion of these so-called exponential firms has helped fuel this growth, connect people more than ever and contributed to improved business competitiveness. We continue to see a resilient SME environment, particularly young ambitious entrepreneurs who use technology as their primary business enabler. They have modelled themselves on the Silicon Valley story and lead with a digital-first, cloud-first agility that makes them very attractive to a highly mobile workforce of skilled and experienced software developers and IT professionals.

in 2015 I met an entrepreneur who has built the first solar powered laptop in Africa

Firms like wiGroup, Bit-x and others who have come through Absa Barclays Techstars, Standard Bank’s incubator, the FNB Innovations Awards and other startup accelerators which show us every year that they are positive about South Africa, they are motivated to scale their businesses, disrupt their industries and prove their critics wrong. At the MTN Small Business awards in 2015 I met an entrepreneur who has built the first solar powered laptop in Africa, his new factory in Coega has created 60 jobs and he has plans to expand even further.

a local tech firm and the world’s leading public opinion mining company

Just as Clem Suntner said 3 decades ago, the high road for SA has to be fuelling this job creating small business engine, the SME industry of techpreneurs and their ecosystem of innovation and seed funded growth. There are still major challenges in a tough regulatory environment to get post start up yet the ideas and the successes tell a different story. We recently took a company called Brandseye to the Endeavour International Selection Panel – they are a local tech firm and the world’s leading public opinion mining company and their insights engines correctly predicted Brexit as well as the American and French elections –they sold this data to investors looking to risk weight their assets in those countries.

if they can make it here, they can make it anywhere in the world

Let’s continue to make sure that technology remains a strong engine of growth to help and encourage these techpreneurs, because let’s face it, if they can make it here, they can make it anywhere in the world – but we don’t want them to go elsewhere – we need the job creation here, the new ideas here, the growth here.”

Part 2 – Education

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