CIO Banquet 2017: Keynote Address Part 4 – City Level Response

This year’s CIO survey results were released at a prestigious gathering of top leaders in South Africa’s IT industry. I was privileged to present a keynote message at the ITWeb & Brainstorm CIO Banquet 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.

The city level response to technology is crucial, and typically led by government through councils and innovation departments – internationally, major urban areas are investing heavily in smart city technologies, while internet of things are helping optimise supply chains, reduce traffic congestion and improve services to growing populations of ever more crowded city spaces. Technology plays a crucial role – attendees at last year’s London Fintech week spoke of the Tel Aviv hackathon or the Paris hackathon – mass gatherings of techies to solve problems at the city level. Durban recently held an innovation conference, it is looking to improve its status as a tech-friendly destination and is already home to large dev shops like Derivco. Political uncertainty in the region doesn’t help but Durban council leadership understands the need to facilitate connections between innovators, government and big business with a strong dose of IT education.

its first 100 recruits will tackle the water crisis in the Western Cape

Another favourite south African city, Cape Town has established itself as the go-to destination for techpreneurs and employers looking for IT skills. We took a group of students from wethinkcode to walk the streets and poke our heads in on all the innovators and ask about the cool stuff they are coding over their lattes. A new Data Science Academy in Cape Town opens in January and it has the right idea by getting its first 100 recruits to tackle the regions water crisis – the academy is another BCX funded initiative and it received over 3000 applications, offers free education as well as a stipend. Data Science is certainly the hot new topic in education; Pretoria launched their data science programme a couple of years ago and Wits launches 2 new data science degrees next year.

one city even offered to change its name to Amazon and make Jeff Bezos its mayor

In America the city level response to technology is captured by the frenzy around Amazon’s intention to build a 2nd headquarters and its request for proposals saw over 200 cities respond. Its requirements were quite strict and should guide our thinking about how we position the local environment for technological growth and investment. Amazon said it was looking for a metro area with at least 1 million residents, proximity to an international airport, mass transit, quality higher education, an educated workforce, a business-friendly environment and amenities that give it ‘the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent’.

are we visionary enough, are we sufficiently well organised at the city level?

The upside for the winning city is huge with over 100,000 jobs being created in the chosen city and 5 billion dollars of investment – one city even offered to change its name to Amazon and make Jeff Bezos its mayor. This is the impact on cities that technology is having – would a Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town or other African metro be able to support an Amazon 2nd or 3rd headquarters? Our cities bid for the international sports games of soccer, the rugby and the Olympics but are we thinking big enough about the real game-changer of technology, are we visionary enough, are we sufficiently well organised at the city level to drive this type of thinking even in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?”

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