GARDEN ROUTE IT CONSORTIUM READY TO BECOME TECHNOLOGY HUB
A consortium of Garden Route based companies is ready to launch an IT technology hub in George which will create jobs and train up new skills.
George’s IT company owner Imel Rautenbach is currently drumming up support for the initiative at provincial and national level. The consortium aims to use the Western Cape Province’s business arm to market and develop in order to get launched nationally and internationally. IT technology and electronic centred businesses will be the engine that will drive this local initiative. “The idea behind pooling resources and skills is to keep all our software and hardware developmental work in the Garden Route. We already have around 30 businesses on our data base that have all the necessary skills and technology to form the nucleus. “
“We plan to link up our efforts with that of the Province. By collectively marketing and taking on projects jointly we can land contracts which may otherwise have been outsourced to companies outside the region. With the skills data base we now have we can take on big contracts, and the risk of one small company folding, is eliminated because collectively we can pool our skills to ensure continuity” says Rautenbach who was recently elected the Vice President of the George Chamber of Business.
On www.gardenrouteconsortium.co.za you can read more about their quest to “Provide project management and quality control services during the full lifecycle of large and complex projects. To define, enable, and manage key technology growth areas in the region.”
Provincial government support
Rautenbach has just returned from a very successful round of meetings with Western Cape Government on how the IT Consortium can link in to and benefit from the Western Cape’s own IT strategy and marketing initiatives. Alan Winde, MEC for Finance and Tourism is very excited about the potential the consortium holds for the Garden Route region. He has committed to bringing a high powered delegation of provincial officials to the region to further explore this potential.
”This initiative fits perfectly with our own plans for the growing of the Technology industry within province”, said Jo-Anne Johnston, Western Cape’s Chief Director of Trade and Industry Development. She has committed her department’s full support for the initiative and is exploring ways of bringing other government departments onboard as well.
Jenny McKinnel, Executive Director of the Cape IT Initiative (CITI), is equally excited. Citi is a non-profit organisation established in 1998 to develop and support the information and communications technology (ICT) cluster in the Western Cape. “CITI is keen to support the Garden Route IT Consortium as their goals are directly in line with our own”, said McKinnel. CITI are going to be working together with the Garden Route IT Consortium to unlock government funding and help promote the region as an IT destination, especially focussing on the impressive line-up of currently supplied services and R&D projects the various consortium members are working on.
Research and Development
The Consortium also has a strong focus on Research and Development (R&D), with several innovations currently in the works. These includes projects like fridge magnets that will show the current water level in your rain tank, a stock theft project that tracks animal and vehicle movements on farms in real time and alerts the farmers the moment the animal’s movements indicates distress, as well as a project to track hikers in remote mountain hiking trails.
CITI’s McKinnel is putting her full support behind the formation of a new R&D Lab in the Garden Route, which will help accelerate these R&D ventures. The Western Cape Agriculture department has also been tasked to get involved in some of these projects. DTI and other government funding for R&D spending will be applied for to cover the lab setup and initial phases of some of these projects. Talks with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) on how it can assist the consortium in its R&D and marketing initiatives is ongoing.
Wireless technology is ready to be unfolded
As part of the R&D venture a state of the art wireless network is being set up. This network will eventually cover the entire Garden Route but is currently being rolled out in the George area. The network uses the latest wireless technology which promises much faster speed than traditional networks.
The network will be non-commercial and completely free to join. The network will not supply internet access but rather will be a backbone for R&D projects and educational programs. Through wireless technology business can monitor activities through CCTV camera link-ups and WEBCAMs. Regional weather and water consumption monitoring can be done for instance through wireless technology. “The potential of the new network is limitless. With remote monitors farmers can even check-up on where their cattle is grazing, or see what vehicles are accessing their farms.” said an excited Rautenbach.
Western Province Government is busy drafting a policy on City based networks and will be liaising with the consortium to learn from the initiatives taken in the Garden Route.
On of the consortium’s major aims is to boost education in the Southern Cape. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT University) in the USA, has made available to the consortium around 2000 online programs focussing on science and technology. These programs will be made available to local schools completely free of charge, once they have connected to the new network. “The beauty of this is that it is all so achievable. Video conferencing can be set up so that children in a small rural school can also listen to and view someone in the USA giving a lecture and so be brought into the world of science and technology.” Students can do courses as well through internet. Ms Johnston from Western Cape Government is currently exploring ways of unlocking government funding to get all the region’s schools connected to this initiative.
“By creating a virtual hub, we want to create a momentum which will bring about enough technology based work here in George which will mean that those people who are currently commuting to bigger centres, and living in George, can in future work here as well.
“We are having a road show to launch the roll-out and we are pleased that Western Cape Finance and Tourism Minister Allan Winde’s revitalization programme happens to coincide and slot in with our initiatives, and we hope to tap into those being rolled out.”