Networked 12 intelligence Because of some clever, behind the scenes organising, Cape Town has a strong community of highly networked, talented IT entrepreneurs, says Jenny McKinnell
What is CITi and what is its role in Cape Town? The Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITi) is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 to develop and support an information technology cluster in the Western Cape, including Cape Town. Our mission is to stimulate the growth of employment and prosperity. We achieve this goal primarily by initiating and “unblocking”. One of our key roles is to bring industry, government and academia together, either among or between themselves, to solve specific issues. The value of this work is usually not recognised because it is not newsworthy. However, it does result in more cooperation, better integration between initiatives and less duplication of effort. Cape Town has a strong community of highly networked, talented IT entrepreneurs because of our efforts over the last 12 years.
What have been your successes? A key early success of CITi was the creation, in 2000, of the Bandwidth Barn (BWB), a business incubator that focuses on fast-tracking the pace of business growth in the IT sector by helping small, medium and micro enterprises (or SMMEs) to establish themselves, commercialise new products and services, create jobs and wealth and add economic diversity to the community. The BWB runs focused, intensive and selective support programmes for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the IT sector in the Western Cape. A large number of successful Cape IT entrepreneurs have either been incubated in the BWB or benefited from its programmes. They include Vinny Lingham (Yola), Piet Streicher (BulkSMS), Matthew Tagg (WebAfrica), Sheraan Amod (Personera), Marc Antony Zimmerman (The Broccoli Project), Henk Kleynhans (Skyrove), Mustapha Baboo (Maxxor), Shana Kassiem 70
(Infointeg), and many others. This year CITi also launched the IT Heroes and Pioneers portal and campaign to recognise our regional talent and highlight the fact that the Western Cape is full of talented techpreneurs creating high quality software and services. This is part of a bigger project to attract software development and research centres to the region.
Why has CITi been so supportive of linkages between ICT and design? Cape Town is a creative city with huge design strength. What many people don’t know is that our software engineers and developers are also creative. We design and write bold, innovative, “out of the box” software. We believe that bringing our filmmakers, storytellers and designers together with our software professionals will lead to the creation of high-growth businesses with the potential for international expansion. This is the reason why we will be establishing a new IT and Design incubator in the East City design district in early 2011. This will involve refurbishing the Old Granary building to create an amazing space for designers and techies to share ideas and co-create products and services. Jenny McKinnell is Executive Director of the Cape IT Initiative (CITi)
FACING PAGE The Granary: A mixed use hub for the creative industries, currently in development and project managed by the Cape Town Heritage Trust.