Thursday, 21 November 2013

Saldanha Wireless Mesh

The advert for the tender for the design, commissioning and management of a household level wireless mesh network in the Saldanhabay Municipal area  was published in “Die Weslander” and the municipality website ( today. A copy of the advert is reproduced below.

This is a very exciting development for South Africa. It is the first time in this country that a project of this nature is being attempted. I will elaborate further in future posts if time permits. However, suffice to say that the biggest gap with respect to access to affordable broadband services in South Africa is in the access network.

We raised this issue as part of the Western Cape broadband initiative and it is great to see that this aspect has also been highlighted in the new (much improved) national broadband policy document from the DOC. We proposed pilot wireless mesh networks for Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain (to test urban, metro) and for the Saldanha Bay Municipality (to test a more rural, less densely populated area). It is great to see the projects coming together and I am sure that we will learn a lot from them.

It is important to note that these projects aim to provide coverage right down to the household level. It is at a very different scale from the many other WIFI hotspot projects that have been in the media recently.

Monday, 18 November 2013

African Urban Matters

African Ideas recently partnered with SAP to bring their global Urban Matters programme to Africa and specifically Cape Town. The African Urban Matters event in Cape Town was held on the 14th and 15th November as a knowledge sharing platform for administrators and leaders in Local Government organisations involved understanding and planning for these African cities of the future.

At the end of 2010, just short of 40% of Africa’s population lived in cities, making it one of the world’s least urbanised regions. This figure is set to increase dramatically in the coming decades. At present, sub-Saharan Africa is second only to Eastern Asia in terms of the pace of urbanisation, with estimated annual growth of 1.26% from 2010 -2015. By 2035, the continent will reach a tipping point, when more than 50% of Africans will live in urban centres. By 2050, more than 1bn people will live in cities. In 2010, there were 94 sub-Saharan Africa cities with a population of more than 500 000 inhabitants… and in 2025 there will be 144 such cities. So issues of urban management is very important.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Living in a Hyper-connected World – How Cities Need to get Smarter and More Digitally Enabled

Last week, I made this presentation at the South African Gartner Symposium ITXPO 2013.
The summary of the presentation stated "Cities are where the action is. That's where innovation is happening. A city is an interconnected system of systems. Infrastructure, people, processes and technology make a city. In modern cities, there's a lot of data about everything. Lots of sensors are already deployed everywhere - in buildings, roads, and utility grids; and lots of new information-based processes are in place. Everything is more information-rich, so you have to think about information as another significant resource you use to manage city life. Citizens are also more connected than ever before, they have access to a lot more information, and have powerful platforms of their own. Big data, mobile, social media, cloud, digital inclusion, open data, broadband, etc. are powerful forces that will impact on cities and organisations now and in the future - creating both opportunities and challenges. In addition to being relevant to government leaders, this presentation will be relevant to all CIOs and business leaders across industry regarding how today’s new technologies, global competition and business models will shift the focus from an internal efficiency view to a more outside-in view of the digital world and the role of their organisation within it."

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Affordable internet for South Africa's townships

It’s really good to see that the proof of concept phase of the Mitchell’s Plain & Khayelitsha wireless mesh project has finally arrived. It is happening at a very topical time, with lots of other WIFI projects being announced by municipalities across South Africa.

The City of Tshwane project to roll out free WIFI internet access across the city has been in the news a lot recently. Phase 1 of the project will concentrate on five locations by November 2013. These locations are TUT Soshanguve Campus, University of Pretoria - Hatfield Campus, Tshwane North College, Mamelodi Community Centre and Church Square in the Pretoria CBD. The project is being done in partnership with Project Isizwe which has emerged from the Stellenbosch Free Wi-Fi project earlier this year.

In May 2011, I worked with the Western Cape Government’s Economic Development Department to draw up a strategic framework for broadband in the province. One of the initiatives that we identified as a key intervention was a pilot project to deploy an alternative “open access” last mile infrastructure in high density, geographically suitable economic nodes. This project aims to:
  • Create a wireless (WiFi) mesh network as a last mile open access network providing access to all households in the selected communities. Pilots will be conducted in the metropolitan area (Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain) as well as in a smaller town outside of the metropolitan area (Greater Saldanha Bay).
  • Further utilise the wireless mesh network for government-related initiatives such as linking Public Safety and Disaster Management communications to this network e.g. CCTVs, Public Warning Systems, etc; the deploying of smart meters, intelligent transport sysems, environmental monitoring, etc.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Graduate Centre for Management, Certificate Award ceremony, 19 June 2013

I was invited to be a guest speaker at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Graduate Centre for Management, Certificate Award ceremony tonight (19 June 2013). Below is the text of the talk that I delivered.....

Thank you for inviting me to this event. I am honoured to be here with you at your awards ceremony.

I run a company called African Ideas.  We are a strategic consultancy helping governments to accelerate the benefits of ICT-enabled change through transformation of the public sector and the wider economy.
Our name embodies the principles that we believe in and strive towards - African Innovation, African Development, African Empowerment, African Action and African Solutions.

We believe in the ripple effect – dropping a stone or even a drop of water in a pond, causes ripples to emanate from the source, getting bigger and bigger the further away from the source they get. This is a powerful example of small changes causing large and far-reaching effects. At African Ideas, we specialise in working with our clients to identify these ‘big lever’ projects – the projects which, when embarked upon, will set the necessary ripples in motion to drive change and transformation throughout an eco-system. In this way we aim to have a profound effect on the society in which we operate.

A few days ago, there was a very interesting article in the MIT Technology Review that I am still trying to get my head around. The article was titled “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs” and was clearly of interest to me, as I have always had the view that technology can have a massive impact on social and economic impact in our country. I was starting to wonder if some of the luddites that we seem to have in charge of our country might have it right after all, and if I might have it wrong.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Video Smoke detection systems for early detection of shack fires

Shack fires are a huge problem in South Africa and it has a devastating impact on the lives of poorer communities. As African Ideas (, we have raised the idea of utilising video smoke detection systems for early detection of shack fires - linked to the Western Cape broadband initiative.

Video smoke detection systems are starting to be used for fire detection in oil refineries, historic buildings, rail depots, warehouses, shopping malls, etc.  They have not been used for shack (informal housing) fires anywhere else in the world that I am aware off – but this is just the kind of innovative use of technology to solve societal problems that we should be exploring (African solutions for African problems).

Monday, 3 June 2013

My first trip on Cape Town’s new MyCiti bus service

The MyCiti bus service rolled out to my area a few months ago and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to test the service. I was quite excited about the service as it brings reliable public transport to my area which previously did not have any public transport options.
New MyCiti bus in Walmer Estate
When I first heard about it, the service was supposed to have commenced in December 2012. Given that I was going to be moving to a project office in the CBD in January 2013, I had the idea that it would really be convenient to use the bus to work in the CBD.   I knew that it might not really work for me, given that I often have meetings all over the city and the province for which I would need my car. However I was committed to trying it out and seeing if I could make it work. Alas, it was not to be.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Cape Chamber of Commerce ICT Portfolio Committee

Here is a presentation that I made to the Cape Chamber of Commerce on the 15th May 2013 on behalf of Ms Jo-Anne Johnson, Chief Director, Strategic Initiatives, Western Cape Government. It provides an overview of the Western Cape broadband programme and provides an update on progress.