On Thursday, 24 June 2021, the MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), Mr Mlungisi Mvoko, launched a R10 million “ICT & 4IR – Shaping a better Eastern Cape Programme” at the East London Industrial Development Zone SOC Ltd (ELIDZ) Conference Centre in line with the department’s programmatic areas.
Targeted at high school learners, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and entrepreneurs in the Eastern Cape Province, the programme is funded by DEDEAT and is aimed at introducing, developing, and embedding Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related initiatives within the Eastern Cape region. The two organisations appreciate the importance of skills development and aligning development programmes towards the province’s needs. As such, the “ICT & 4IR – Shaping a better Eastern Cape Programme” is a youth targeted initiative for the province’s future tech-preneurs.
Explaining the department’s intent for this programme MEC Mvoko said: “This programme comes at a time when the Eastern Cape government is proactive in its approach to prepare for life after Coronavirus (COVID-19). As such, we have noted the heightened adoption of ICT within business and schools in our province and are looking to use it to launch lasting solutions aimed at eradicating our challenges.”
MEC Mvoko added that the programme is facilitated through a partnership with the ELIDZ Science and Technology Park (STP). “The ELIDZ STP is the provincial coordinator of the Regional Innovation Network Platform which is made up of our institutions of higher learning, national departments, funding agencies and innovation inclined parastatals. It is for this reason that we decided to partner with the STP as they are used to running such programmes for our youth and budding tech-entrepreneurs.
This programme is the realisation of our Policy Speech pronouncements that we made at the beginning of this year, where we said we are positioning the ELIDZ at the centre of our digital transformation and as a hub of our ICT strategy so the Province is able to participate in the digital economy. We are happy that this priority is immediately taking shape. The East London IDZ’s Science and Technology Park (STP) has been an important vehicle in the creation of an impactful environment for innovation and growth. The STP has and continues to assist young black innovators in the renewable energy, ICT and automotive sectors to refine, patent, prototype, market and commercialise their innovations. The development and incubation of SMMEs as well as the development of required capabilities and skills for the advancement of 4IR is vital in ensuring that our citizens and our entrepreneurs in the Eastern Cape participate in local and global value chains,” added MEC Mvoko.
The ICT & 4IR – Shaping a better Eastern Cape Programme focus areas are:
- Skill development – reskilling for the new 4IR economy
- Technology development – Hackathons
Making his remarks, ELIDZ Board Chairperson - Professor Mlungisi Makalima, lauded DEDEAT’s proactive approach in carving a life after COVID-19 through refocusing the province’s attention towards ICT. “The concerted effort by the department to carve a new path for our economy is in line with the ELIDZ STP undertaking to develop technology-led innovations while developing skills of the future,” he said.
At the launch MEC Mvoko also handed over cheques to winners of the first of three ICT Hackathons organised as part of the “ICT & 4IR – Shaping a better Eastern Cape Programme”. The ICT Hackathon challenged participants to come up with solutions for challenges plaguing the province. These include unemployment, service delivery, education and upskilling.
According to Operations Manager: STP, Ms Ludwe Macingwane, the hackathon challenge started on Friday, 04 June and continued until Sunday, 06 June 2021. The hackathon was precinct based, hosted in five stations across the Eastern Cape namely East London (Cortex Hub), Gqeberha (Propella Business Incubator), Makhanda (Rhodes University), Alice (University of Fort Hare) and Mthatha (Water Sisulu University). “The ICT Hackathon challenge attracted interest across the province hence we had to have five stations to host thirteen teams made up of 46 individuals,” said Ms Macingwane.
The first prize winner of the ICT Hackathon, Umrhwebo, walked away with R30 000 to reinvest back into their innovation, 12-month Incubation Training with the ELIDZ STP as well as an opportunity to gain access to the market. The team of three innovators from Makhanda came up with a system aimed at helping small scale farmers gain access to mainstream economy.
Ms Lupumlo Ngcukana, a second-year Bachelor of Commerce student and team member of Umrhwebo said, “Our innovation will help create linkages between our province’s emerging farmers and the mainstream economy. This solution is not only for our farmer but will also help other farmers that have to travel long hours just to do business.”
The second and third prize winners walked away with R20 000 and R10 000 respectively. Second runner up, Vergo Tech’s technology will ensure that leaners from all corners of the province have access to textbooks. The third placed Cybernetics’ solution will help connect tertiary students in need of funding with funders.
MEC Mvoko congratulated the winners and thanked them for their solution-oriented attitude and for coming up with solutions that will benefit all citizens of the province.
ISSUED BY: DEDEAT & ELIDZ
For media enquiries please contact:
Mr Sibusiso Ralarala
ELIDZ Manager: Marketing & Corporate Communications
Cell: 066 283 9203
Mr Ncedo Lisani
DEDEAT Manager: Communications
Cell: 066 485 0501
Mr. Pumelele Godongwana
Media Liaison Officer/Spokesperson for MEC Mvoko
Cell: 078 404 9656