In October 2012, Informa Telecoms & Media, the organizers the of AfricaCom, the African continent’s single largest and most important digital communications conference and exhibition, launched a competition to attract new blood into the tech writing world. Aimed at the youth, they teamed up with a local television programme Hectic Nine9 on the SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation) platform. From the entries received, nine were shortlisted from which two finalists were selected.
Lauren Leonard (19 years) and Simone Johnson (21 years) spent three days at AfricaCom immersing themselves into the world of technology. Neither of the two young girls had a background or experience in the tech sector before this but this has not stopped them from making the most of their experience. Armed with an ipad each – part of their winnings – they explored sessions, workshops and the exhibition, providing a fresh take on the business of technology.
Leonard (from Kuilsriver) who is currently studying journalism and also aims to become a cinematographer, took to blogging like a duck to water – although having never blogged before she has set up an interesting and insightful look into the business of digital communications. Her “eyecatcher” blog (on WordPress) tracks trends, innovations and developments in the world of ICT. In her own words, “my eyes have been opened to a whole new world. I now see the how and the why the technology we take for granted everyday, is delivered to something like our mobile phones. I have stopped living for today and am now living for tomorrow”.
Johnson always wanted to go into media, but a scholarship to study project management and accounting saw this hardworking, future-looking young lady from Mannenberg, take a different route until watching Hectic Nine 9 and fate intervened. Simone’s first language is Afrikaans and after discussion, has decided to create South Africa’s first online tech blog (aiming to become a fully fledged magazine) in Afrikaans. She is creative and intrepid, having sat in on many of the high level discussions at AfricaCom 2012 and then boldly interviewing some of the continent’s top tech contributors, including writing a piece on women in the tech world. As this is an area that is still mainly dominated by the male of the species, there are plenty of opportunities for both girls to carve out a significant place for themselves – if they want..
While still novices and with a ton of research and reading ahead of them, the three mentors and South African judges (Liron Segev of Swift Consulting and thetechieguy blog; Bradley Shaw managing editor of Africa Telecoms magazine and Kaz Henderson Founding Partner of Networx) have seen an encouraging growth and development in these two bright young women and are themselves enthusiastic not only about the girls’ future but at the prospect of a fresh outlook on the subject of tech and communications.
In the post show wrap-up grilling, both girls correctly interpreted that the common theme of the 2012 conference had been about “DATA” – how much of it there is and still needed, the cost and how to get it to more people across the continent; that apps are here to stay; how content is king and how cloud computing is leading the way for a more connected and communicative united Africa.
In a post event interview on Hectic Nine 9, both Lauren and Simone clearly demonstrated their joy about being a part of this brave new world. In chatting to them in the Green Room before the show, they confirmed they have become fast friends. According to Lauren, “we thought we would be highly competitive against one another, but one of the other things that we learnt at AfricaCom is that while there are many journalists writing on the subject, there are different angles and different opinions that can be offered which is the same with us as we each have a different viewpoint – yet like the people we met last week, there is a great camaraderie and that is something we would both like to continue to grow.”
Both girls have been offered a short internship at Africa Telecoms magazine under the auspices of Bradley Shaw and the tech team, while CNBC Africa having met the two young pioneers at AfricaCom has also opened the door to a brief stint if they would like to see the business desk of this international broadcaster. They will be invited back to AfricaCom in 2013. So, watch this space.
Follow Lauren on: Write2see.wordpress.com (The Eyecatcher)
Follow Simone on: Monejohnson.wordpress.com (SJtechnowhiz)