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  • The Stuart Ntlathi story: A hope-filled prophecy for entrepreneurs in Africa

    High profile speakers, animated presentations, and the occasional F-bomb on stage all characterised the proceedings at what is fast-becoming one of South Africa’s hottest tech conferences. Net Prophet, a free one-day conference established by the RAMP Foundation last year as a means of social investment to debate and grow the local Internet economy, attracted about 800 people from all walks of life. This year’s line-up included Erik Hersman (Ushahidi), Vinny Lingham (Yola), Adriaan Pienaar (WooThemes), Stefan Magdalinski (Mocality), Richard Mulholland (Missing Link), Patrick Kayton (Cognician), Sarah Lacy (TechCrunch), Stephen Newton (ex-Google SA), Stephan Ekbergh (TravelStart), Stuart Ntlathi (SNSET), and Arthur...

  • Net Prophet: Africa is a sea of opportunity

    Free coffee, wi-fi and pumping music tunes was how more than 800 tech geeks, freaks, entrepreneurs and industry leaders were greeted at the Net Prophet Conference in Cape Town on Thursday. With an impressive line-up of speakers and the sense of a growing tech community in the Silicon Cape, it was no surprise to see a packed and enthusiastic auditorium at Old Mutual Park. Speakers included Erik Hersman, co-founder of Ushahidi.com, and Mocality.com CEO Stefan Magdalinski, who shared insights on mobile and internet innovation in Africa -- and how South African entrepreneurs in particular are well-placed to take advantage of...

  • Where is SA’s entrepreneurial spirit?

    Economically, America is almost three times larger than its nearest rival, and despite its size, it is one of the most productive economies in the world. This begs the question: What makes America the most successful economy the world has ever witnessed? The obvious reasons don’t provide us with a ready explanation though. What about education? Education is the ultimate driver of development, so surely America must have the best education system in the world. The reality is that, especially at the primary and secondary levels, many other countries have far better education systems than America. What about manufacturing? At the heart...

  • A look at seven other types of hackers

    Hacker. The word conjures up visions of a bleary-eyed geek for whom every day is a bad hair day, hunkered behind a screen in the early hours of the morning, surrounded by dirty coffee mugs and empty pizza boxes, working on some computer code that the rest of us will never understand. But that’s not the true definition of a hacker. A hacker is someone who enjoys a deeper understanding of a complex system; someone who takes that complex system and breaks it down to its component parts; someone who then puts it back together again in new, groundbreaking...

  • ‘Best of the mobile web’ launches for SA users

    Durban-based mobile media company, Thumbtribe, has officially launched a directory of what it considers to be the top local mobile sites, called "Best of the Mobile Web". Thumbtribe says their new mobile directory allows South African users to find relevant, mobile-friendly content "quickly and easily". The directory can be found via your mobile phone at thumbtribe.mobi -- and via other mobile channels such as Samsung mobile, Nokia.mobi, Opera Mini and through links from various sites housed within the directory. Some of the sites listed in the directory include M-Net, TimesLive, Junkmail, Private Property, CAR, Getaway, Soccer Laduma, PlanetRugby, YOU, Cosmopolitan, heat,...

  • Opening that digital door: 4 critical checkpoints for companies

    Social media, digital engagement, online conversation - they're not buzzwords as much as a deemed necessity these days. But where I used to encourage companies to jump in and get their toes wet, my thoughts on the space have changed slightly over the years. Yes. Digital engagement can offer some incredible long-term rewards, but be prepared to do it properly. The first couple of years you'll be fighting a continual battle to stop your engagement efforts turning into a "Guest Book" of nightmare proportions. Give an audience a voice, and the first thing you'll hear are the complaints. But...

  • Launch: Office 2010 gets social

    At the launch of Office 2010 local Microsoft execs demonstrated how the company's flagship email application has become more social, and how Excel and Word have eventually made the move online via their new Google Docs-like Web Apps service. Office 2010 is the newest version of their software suite, containing familiar computer applications like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. It was launched at an event attended by hundreds of technology companies, users and badly-dressed nerds in Cape Town last night –- a day before the global launch of the product. Microsoft’s Albie Bester reckons Office 2010 will make a real difference...

  • Can SA expect a boom in ecommerce?

    The ecommerce landscape in South Africa has historically been hampered by slow and expensive Internet access, but things are beginning to change for the better. And if you are in any doubt as to whether speed is important for an ecommerce website, consider the following observations on the effects of latency on user behaviour: Amazon found every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales. Google found an extra 0.5 seconds in search page generation time dropped traffic by 20%. Anyone running a South African website would be very familiar with the highly predictable dip in their web stats over weekends, indicating that...

  • SA’s Parliamentarians instructed to use Facebook and Twitter

    Parliamentary House Chairperson Obed Bapela has instructed South African MPs to improve their computer literacy, including learning how to use and engage with social networks like Facebook and Twitter, reports Johannesburg radio station 702. “We cannot have MPs that cannot access the internet. We can’t have MPs that can’t engage on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,” scolded Bapela. Parliamentarians were instructed to improve their skills and understanding of technology, after it emerged that around 85 percent of MPs were not computer literate. The radio station reported that the orders came during Tuesday’s parliamentary budget vote. Bapela said that too many laptops...

  • Web forms: Get them right and make more money

    A web form is like a solid wall between you and your customer. The customer wants to buy your product. You want to sell your product. But in between there’s the form… and everyone hates filling in forms. Making your forms easier-to-use can have a dramatic effect on your company’s bottom line. Jared Spool has written about a form redesign that increased a company’s annual revenue by $300-million. At Flow Interactive we have seen as much as a 125% increase in conversion rates with better form design. And Google thinks form design projects will have a much larger return-on-investment (ROI)...

  • Searching for wisdom in the Twitter cloud

    Twitter works for journalists as a fantastic alert system, and becomes an interesting news source itself when events develop so fast that the media are not able to cover it. But is there any real wisdom in the Twitter cloud? A few weeks ago, together with a colleague, I was 'ashed in' at Amsterdam airport; he could not fly to Johannesburg and my flight to Cyprus was cancelled, all due to the ash cloud from that infamous Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Twitter proved to be a great help though, and following the tweets gave us an idea who was flying...

  • Why WordPress isn’t for everyone

    There was a time not so long ago when I could dictate to businesses exactly what they needed, when they needed it, and at what cost, without even bothering to mention what else was available on the market. Not so anymore. Suddenly I find myself needing to defend my online solution with each new client that walks through the door -- and it's a good thing! Business people have become extremely web-savvy and are doing the right research before upgrading their sites or venturing online. They spurt out things like -- search engine optimisation, social-networking, video-sharing, wikis, blogs, mashups, ajax,...

  • The startup way: 10 web tools we use

    When building a startup venture, small teams come up against several tough challenges. One being, how to deliver a lot of work in a little time, and how is this achievable with almost no budget? Luckily, these pains have been recognised by many great services that help small businesses punch above their weight. In a startup environment, inefficiencies are punished more than anywhere else. After getting Personera off the ground, our team has learnt some lessons in selecting the right tool for the job at hand. Here are 10 online tools we use regularly and have come to love. Communication Gmail: Yes,...

  • Cell C signals major push into social media

    Cell C, a major mobile phone operator in South Africa, has indicated a change in strategy from being a "price leader" to communicating with its subscribers in "whole new ways", which means a major new focus on harnessing the interactivity and engagement that comes with social media. A new social media presence appears to be high on the agenda for the mobile operator because Cell C CEO Lars P. Reichelt devoted some time to talking about it at a recent press conference on the company's financial results. Reichelt himself will now be Tweeting about his day-to-day activities from the official Cell...

  • A business lesson: Go where the sardines are

    We are lucky in technology, because many other industries can only grow linearly and so that growth is a massive, long term effort that results in businesses like General Electric. The interesting thing is that even though we have the ability to scale with tech, a lot of people building businesses in tech try to build businesses in verticals that have no inherent potential for scale, or at least not enough to get to profitability before the runway cash is spent. They underestimate the sales effort required, overcook technical requirements, avoid the cold hard problem of "What's in it for...