28th-november-tweeting-birds
Social Media Marketing

Tanya Kalyan (South Africa): Tweet Tweet South Africa? #Technology

Last Tuesday the National Assembly approved the controversial ‘secrecy' bill despite widespread opposition and question marks around its constitutionality. In the lead up online, the #blacktuesday call to arms roared over the general milieu. This resulted in hundreds of black-clad campaigners, human rights activists and media houses protesting outside the gates of parliament and elsewhere around the country, reportedly making #blacktuesday the biggest trend to come out of South Africa yet.

This event got me thinking about the hash tag phenomenon. It is fascinating how a single phrase on the Internet can spark a protest around the world and mobilize hundreds of people. In its evolution the hash tag has become a pillar of free flow information, allowing online discussions the opportunity to expand past a friendship circle and into the wider global community. Of course the function of the hash tag has also been at the center of a lot of controversy, especially during the #londonriots and there is definitely a debate to be had surrounding its merits.

Personally, I have always been a bit of a greenhorn when it comes to twitter. However, in the spirit of embracing the hash tag I took to the Internet in search of exciting IT discussion and debate in South Africa. I was motivated by the tag #CTEW2011 trending during 15th - 21st November, which gave me a real feel for the atmosphere in Cape Town during entrepreneurship week.

Organizers of the event, CTEtrepreneurs tweeted that the main features missing from Africa were ‘...Internet access, Early stage VC funding, High quality mentors & Skills...' This seems to present an accurate summary of the challenges businesses in South Africa are facing today. Perhaps it is telling that the organizers pinpointed skills as a main concern in the region?  The Internet also emerged as a major fault line in the South African business landscape. CreatedBy_ZA  quoted, ‘@geckoconnect: #CTEW2011 4 key areas of investment for economic growth: Infrastructure, Telecoms, Human Capital and Health - Dr. Bhorat'. Interestingly, this echoed the same concerns as the organizers and highlighted the problems associated with limited broadband.

Despite this, there was a real sense of optimism relating to the Internet. Individuals such as Anthony Farr tweeted, ‘Every 10% inc. in bandwidth speed results in a 1.3% increase in economic growth in dev countries - Google Africa Johanna Koller #CTEW2011.' This interesting fact was not unique, but one that was frequently re-tweeted throughout the week by several people. The message represents the positive though cautious business outlook on twitter. There is so much potential for economic growth in ZA if we can overcome the glaring problem of online connection.

Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week clearly ignited a great sense of innovation, creativity and inspiration within the hearts of future business owners in the capital city. Essentially though, after a while of searching through some of the most popular global IT tags such as #technology #cloudcomputing, I began to wonder: where are all the ZA technologists hiding? To answer the riddle I investigated some of my favorite IT tweetoholics' feeds. Although it was clear there were lots of interesting discussions being had, no one was really hash tagging, making it difficult for an outsider like me to follow and join in.

Take for example, this tweet by Regardt van der Berg: ‘What is the one tech gadget/product you wish were available in SA?' (10 Nov) This is an interesting question, but without the hash tag, nobody replied.
What do you think? 

By Tanya Kalyan intern at IDG Connect.

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