The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, taking place from 19 August to 3 September 2016, will not only celebrate digital art and its impact on culture, but will also shine a light on the role women play in digital arts.
With its Afro Tech Riot theme, festival organiser, Tegan Bristow, says that this year’s line-up will illustrate how creativity and technology are becoming more mainstream and the important role women are playing in this space: “We are very proud of the line-up of women this year. The successful engagement of arts, culture, creativity and technology by women is inspiring, and worthy of a spotlight at this year’s Fak’ugesi festival.”
Taking place at The Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Bristow adds: “I have several incredible women collaborating with us this year to showcase the possibilities within culture and technology: Janine Johnston, national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa who is working with the British Council to bring a host of free maker workshops to the festival; Kerry Friend, executive creative director, Isobar, is working with teams of musicians and technologists, including female performer Lindiwe Matshikiza, for the Festival’s “Future Sounds” project; and Thato Noinyane, project manager, British Council Connect ZA who bring us the Festival’s Market Hack and Soweto Pop Up projects among many other activities. They have all assisted in developing an exciting, and much, needed focus on women in digital arts.”
An exciting element of the festival is the Artist Residency and this year will also feature the talents of two up-and-coming African women: Vuyi Chaza and Regina Kgatle.
Chaza wants to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts: “This is not only about growing the art form, but more importantly for Chaza, it is about shaping the narrative surrounding women in Zimbabwe.”
For Regina Kgatle digital arts is a way in which she can use games to educate people no matter where they live or what school they go to. She is the founder of Educade and a non-profit start-up called 67games, which is how Kgatle reaches schools around South Africa. She is one of the Mail & Guardians top 200 Young people and has been nominated for the African Alliance award by the United Nations.
The Festival will host with Women in Tech ZA a special Festival focused networking session on the evening of the 25th of August as part of its Fak’ugesi Talks program, book online to join.
Adding some international flavour to lineup is London-based digital artist Valentina Floris and immersive filmmaker Karen Palmer from SDNA, who will not only share how they are breaking boundaries in their mediums, but explore the intersections between technology, creativity and innovation.
“We are both excited and honoured to feature these collaborations. The festival aims to be a location for both development and celebration of technology and culture in Africa,” says Bristow.
Janine Johnston is a creative consultant, with more than 10years experience in skills development, sustainable design and in facilitating international exchange programs. A passionate ambassador for the South African maker movement, Johnston is the national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa. She is the managing partner of JA JA Consulting, a boutique agency, specializing in strategic communication, event production and creative project management.
Kerry currently works at a digital agency, Isobar, as an Exec Creative Director and heads up their innovation programme, NowLab. She’s also part of a collective, Create Africa, who run workshops and events at the intersection of tech, culture and education. As a member of the IAB Agency Council she currently drives the Innovation Programme, which aims to encourage agencies to explore new ways of working and thinking as they seek to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the age of digital transformation.
Is an artist who uses theatre making tools to extend into film, music and various other disciplines. She is interested in work that is collaborative, process-driven and experimental. A performer, director and writer, she has initiated projects such as The Donkey Child – a devised theatre piece involving 40 players of all ages – in collaboration with Hillbrow Theatre Project, and JHB MASSIVE: Jozi <-> Accra, a temporary collective of 15 artists that combined forces to get to Chale Wote Street Art Festival in James Town, Accra.
Currently offering her skills as a Project Manager for the British Council Connect ZA team, her career started after completing a BA degree in Audiovisual Production Management where she worked in the film and television industry. She has over 8 years’ experience managing projects from conception right through to delivery and has worn a few hats along the way including director, event manager, scriptwriter, social media/content manager and mentor. She has since ventured into managing projects focused around youth empowerment particularly in the creative and digital space. She is interested in this rapidly growing industry and excited to be part of a team which works along partners who are pioneers in the sector.
Vuyi Chaza is a 24-year-old woman from Zimbabwe. She wants to live in a world where video games and cartoon watching are mandatory subjects at school, and extra cheesy pizza becomes a staple food in her country. As a self-proclaimed, amateur designer, she’s been designing officially for one year and has her designs on billboards, publications, books and album covers.
When she’s not trying to navigate the choppy waters of freelancing/starting a business, she creates weird art pieces that leave people either scratching their heads or jaws dropped in fascination. Vuyi hopes to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts, while shaping the narrative surrounding women and Zimbabwe.
Regina Kgatle is the founder and MD of Educade [http://educade.co.za/], and its sister non-profit startup, 67games. An Electrical and Computer Engineering student (University of Cape Town, Honors) she believes we can use games to educate people no matter where they come from or where they go to school. At Educade, Regina focuses on designing and building educational games based on The Promise Curriculum, installing them on custom stand-up arcades that can be taken on the road to South African schools. 67games engages continues this mission by engaging with developers from around the world to create new games for these cabinets, which are then promoted throughout South Africa by means of game pop up installations.
For her efforts, Regina has received national and international awards – listed as Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young people contributing to bettering the quality of life for South Africans, nominated for the African Alliance award by the UN. In 2014 Facebook flew her to the US together with other 24 young students worldwide to receive an award for changing lives through technology. She has recently been honored with “Amplifying new voices” award from Oculus.
Valentina is a London based digital artist. After moving from Italy in 1994, she studied Mixed Media Art at the University of Westminster where she graduated in 1997. During that time, she started to experiment with audio visual techniques and site specific installations. In 1997 she co-founded Luna Nera, an artist-curator organisation that aimed to stimulate interest in the environmental and architectural heritage of localities. By asking the audience to re-look at sites in a new way, Luna Nera addressed a series of issues around ideas of society, community, history, memory and public space. In 2001 she started to work with Ben Foot and co funded SDNA, a creative studio based in London producing distinctive digital artwork.
SDNA’s objective is to explore techniques of interaction within public spaces, using emerging technologies and unusual presentation media. Their interdisciplinary approach, integrating site-responsive installation and live performance, aims to widen the scope of digital art.
Summer 2016 Karen was a Speaker at Tedx Australia at the Sydney Opera House, at Games for Change Festival New York and an invited guest on a International Women Think Tank working in new media Mutek Festival Cannada. Prior she was also a keynote speaker at DiGRA 2015 The World’s leading Academic Digital Games Conference in Germany. Her recent neurogaming parkour installation SYNCSELF 2 was a key exhibit at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival 2015. In conjunction with being a Panel Speaker on Neuroscience in Gaming. She discussed the SYNCSELF 2 Neurogame that recreates the process of transcending fear. This is an interactive parkour film experience which is controlled by the user’s mental focus. There was a very favourable article in The Guardian on Karen and the impact of her work. Initially SYNCSELF 2 was exhibited at the V&A as part of the Digital Design Weekend (Sept 2014), and discussed her journey to the V&A at the WOW Talks series at the Apple Store Regent Street. Previously her work received exposure and critical acclaim at Festivals and Galleries Internationally. 2015 she spoke on her unique form of Storytelling and Tech at various renowned institutions such as The Watershed Bristol, Uppsala University Sweden and Conducttr Transmedia Conference to name a few.
What US game of phones means for Huawei
The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.
The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.
In the same week that the wildly popular Game of Thrones series reached its climax with major characters meeting their startling destinies, US president Donald Trump took the game of phones to a new level in a move that was as startling.
By declaring a trade ban on Huawei, he in effect blocked any US technology from being supplied to the world’s fastest growing smartphone manufacturer. The immediate consequence: Google revoked Huawei’s access to the Android operating system, the Google Play Store, and Google apps like Maps, Gmail and YouTube for all future phone models.
However, Google announced on Twitter, through its Android account, that it would not pull the plug on current devices. It said:
For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.— Android (@Android) May 20, 2019
This means that the current market-leading phone, the Huawei P30 Pro, won’t be affected by the ban. Huawei said it had stockpiled chips from US suppliers with this possibility in mind, so it should at least be able to meet demand for the current model.
Huawei is also known to have worked on its own operating system for some years now, with a view to it eventually replacing Android and reducing the company’s reliance on Google. However, the severity of the ban, and its catch-all nature, shook the market. A smartphone without any Google products is a phone that will see little demand outside China, which itself has banned most Google apps and services.
Notably, the first impact of the shock wave was on American companies that supply Huawei. Chipmakers Intel and Snapdragon were hit, and a wide range of other corporations, from Microsoft to Corning, could also be affected. Apple could be next, as the Chinese government may well block the assembly of its products in China. Currently, all iPhones are put together at factories in China. Should it retaliate in this way, Apple will have to develop a new supply chain, both delaying its next versions and increasing its cost due to its loss of a cheap source of labour.
That is not to say that Huawei won’t be a big loser in this trade war. It’s a massive blow. Until now, Huawei could carry on blithely in the face of a sales ban in the USA, knowing it is dominant in the rest of the world in both 5G equipment and in handset sales.
However, its smartphone leadership is founded on a particularly good implementation of Google’s Android ecosystem. Losing that means it has to go back to the drawing board in developing and evolving its own operating system and even apps environment. It can do it, but it will lose years of development to Apple and Samsung.
The bottom line, then, is that everyone loses in this trade war. If the Huawei ban is no rescinded, Donald Trump will have dealt a crippling blow to the entire smartphone industry. This could, in turn, presage a slump in technology shares on the stock markets of the world.
It may, then, appear baffling that the US administration would take such drastic steps. The ostensible reason is that Huawei is subject to a Chinese law that requires local companies to cooperate with authorities. This is interpreted as meaning that Huawei would install secret backdoors in handsets to give the Chinese government access to them, and secret spy technology in 5G networks to allow the government to eavesdrop on all communications.
This is clearly an absurd accusation, as any evidence to this effect would instantly destroy Huawei as a credible provider of technology to the world. No such evidence has been presented, and most arguments to this effect have been on the level of conspiracy theory rather than presentation of facts.
It also speaks volumes that the US has not banned trade with China’s Lenovo, which acquired the IBM hardware business a few years ago, and the Motorola handset division more recently. Motorola is still perceived to be an American brand, while Huawei is perceived not just as the challenger brand it had been for some years, but in fact as an invader brand.
Can foreign policy be based on mere perception? In the case of the Trump administration, that tends to be the rule rather than the exception. And the perception is further clouded by the halo effect that surrounds Apple products in the USA. The iPhone makes up well over a third of all American smartphone sales. Typical iPhone users tend to be rather enthusiastic about their loyalty to the brand, to the extent that they are usually disparaging of any other brands.
Grudging respect for Samsung, which has been going head-to-head with Apple for much of this decade, does not extend to Huawei, which emerged seemingly from nowhere to become the world’s third biggest smartphone brand. Its current sales trajectory has it overtaking Apple very soon, and reaching the number one position by the end of the year. Until, that is, Donald Trump brought its momentum to a halt.
Again, why not ban Motorola and Lenovo in the same breath? The answer may well lie in the pathology of the Apple fanboy. American-born Motorola and Lenovo handsets pose no threat to Apple’s dominance of the US market, whereas the interloper, Huawei, is a fundamental threat. It is, therefore, the enemy, merely by virtue of its existence as serious competition when it is seen as having no right to compete with the likes of Apple. Trump is known to be an enthusiastic iPhone user, using two of the devices simultaneously, and would almost certainly buy into this mindset. That, in turn, makes it a natural kneejerk reaction simply to ban American companies from doing business with Huawei.
Whether this is merely idle speculation is beside the point. The ban also represents self-inflicted harm, which extends the pathology argument to an entire administration.
It will be a blow to both countries, symbolic of how a trade ban can hurt the country imposing the ban. It also casts a dark shadow over world trade, and is a shameful example of how trade wars wreck so much in their paths.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Time for smart energy
South Africa is experiencing an energy crisis that requires the public and private sectors, along with households to work together. Fundamental to this is embracing innovative technology that provides more efficient ways of managing the country’s energy.
Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa, said: “With the number of connected devices expected to top more than 75 billion worldwide by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered an important tool in reaching this goal. Already, connected devices can be used to deliver smart energy that sees a more optimal use of resources.”
This approach relies on a smart grid of connected sensors pointing to areas where energy is wasted. In turn, the supply to these points can be allocated to higher priority areas resulting in a better use of resources.
Aiding this drive towards connected devices is government pushing towards the establishment of smart cities. These cities require a technological infrastructure built around various sensors connected to the internet to not only generate data, but control things as diverse as traffic lights, street lamps, and other electrical devices.
Graham said: “These smart cities enable lighting to be automatically switched off when not needed. Sensors on the connected devices will detect when people are on the street and turn it off or on accordingly. What might seem like a novelty, can make a massive difference in reducing energy waste.”
According to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste, IoT is just part of how technology can be used to create a more efficient environment.
“South Africa produces an average 108 million tonnes of waste annually,” said Stubbs. “Of this, only 10 percent is recycled. There is significant potential to use this waste and convert it to energy. This is more than just the traditional way of viewing recycling. Instead, it is using technology to extract value out of waste through initiatives like refuse and waste-derived fuel.”
The first South African Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant was launched in 2016 and not only aims to reduce landfill, but also the country’s carbon footprint. As the name suggests, the plant converts general, industrial, and municipal waste into an alternative fuel that is used in the cement industry.
Stubbs said: “Spin-off benefits of this plant includes the creation of additional employment opportunities and a reduction of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management entails so much more than what many people think. But the key remains a combination of technology innovation and a willingness to use the resources generated by this.”
Graham agrees about the need to readily accept the innovation technology brings as the country is teetering on a significant energy disaster.
He said: “New technologies are critical in helping the countries and their cities of the future promote sustainable energy use. For example, Nairobi has introduced smart street lamps that use LED lighting saving money and resources on energy costs. These lamp poles also have Wi-Fi embedded in them that sees air quality probe sensors submitted vital data for city planners on where there are pollution hotspots.”
Stubbs feels these are good examples of how energy management approaches in the connected world need to be non-linear.
“The traditional ways of adopting technology, recycling, and managing energy must be seen as relics of the past,” she said. “Instead, we must all work together and readily embrace modern solutions or risk our country entering a new dark ages.”