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DigiTalk with DUT’s Colin Thakur “Wanted: Simple solutions”

DigiTalk with DUT’s Colin Thakur “Wanted: Simple solutions”

I suffer from a new ailment: launch fatigue. This is a unique subtropical condition caused by attending too many launches. As an academic, we are presumed to have lots of time, so we are constantly invited. We attend because we are poorly paid, curious, and always hungry. Of course, the function organisers in any event need us, I guess, to make up the numbers and to lend an air of credibility. We also naïvely attend these launches expecting some research projects. Fat chance.
I am therefore personally and professionally against launches because the usual crowd tends to arrive at these events. They frolic and profess support and trot to the next launch.
Graduations, however, constitute a different story. This signifies output accomplishment and a task completed.
Given my predisposition, I write with some excitement of a graduation/launch of InvoTech’s Creative Digital Hub we will host on the 24 February at InvoTech, which is an innovation incubator located in the Durban DUT precinct. I happily declare a conflict, as I am the chairman of the board of InvoTech under the stewardship of the affable CEO, Senzo Xulu. Senzo, is a Masters graduate who was headhunted for this position.
So what is happening? According to Xulu, “Creative digital technology is the alchemy of blending creativity with digital technology to create unique products. Previous generations regarded creativity and technology as being like oil and water – they just don’t mix.” The artist could leverage technology to create more of the same, increasing their margins, while technologists need to make their artefacts softer and more humane. Accessibility equals marketability.
What does InvoTech do? InvoTech has created a media home, which is breezy, has a nice soft creative vibe where entrepreneurs can creatively and productively chill. It also has a mandate to support entrepreneurial activities involving technology projects. Visit the InvoTech website for more information or www.invotech.dut.ac.za.
Who is targeted? We don’t have an exclusionary list. We do, however, love enthusiasm and a can-do attitude.
Xulu rightfully boasts “the incubator has been blessed with R5m in funding that is ring-fenced for clients. We may not use this for any other reason but for client projects which are evaluated and selected by an independent committee.”
We will at the end of February actually demonstrate some products and announce a few new ones as well. I like to think I am a verb – how else can you lead an incubator? So here’s a teaser of my announcements. I am announcing a societal responsive solution team we are establishing with the aim of developing software artefacts. Our academic collaborator here is software expert Cassim Vankar. Cassim is one of those rare breed of real software developers who remain in academia. By the way, Cassim’s mother will never ever send me pickle again if I don’t write about him. Another day, I promise, mommy.
I believe every ICT professional worth his or her salt should have a practical implementable idea that can make this country better. If not, you are an inappropriately deployed cadre, or your father either owns the city or the company. If you belong to the latter go to the policy unit or go home.
We need innovation in this land of ours. This must be contextual (increase access, improve health systems, decrease unemployment), responsive (HIV/AIDS), proactive (water security) or even reactive (rhino, energy,). We also need old-fashioned commonsense. Can we as InvoTech help you develop your products?
For example, I am alternatively appalled and amused about how during the cricket intermissions on the Indian sub-continent, the women push the heavy rollers to flatten the cricket pitch. This is hard manual labour. Are Indian men so incredibly lazy? My wife uses this as an example to demonstrate what “a rhetorical question is” to my son.
There are, however, two important reasons. First, India uses this to demonstrate gender equality and second, as the women are paid, they use this for employment equity.
How can we create projects which profile work as honourable work, generating the attendant desire to want to do the work and actually achieve respectful recognition? The Outsurance-funded “Pointsmen Project” in Gauteng comes to mind. Here the insurance company appropriately trains pointsmen and supports them with transport, with the ultimate aim of deployment to street corners where the traffic lights fail. This frees the police to do more useful work. Do you have such a project?
Our overzealous passion to automate things takes away jobs at the very level where it is needed. Until we sort out education, we need creative human-intensive work that will engender pride, self-worth and nation building. This may even promote green systems.
I therefore don’t attend many of these functions anymore even if it says (V)egetarian, (H)alaal, or (S)pecify meal! Just so you know, if the launch invitation, however, says (S)mall (M)edium or (L)arge, or even better Window or Aisle seat – I will make the sacrifice and diarise.
*Colin Thakur is the Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology. He is also the Chairperson of the board of the InvoTech innovation incubator

Story appeared in: Dolphin Coast Mail and East Coast Mail

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