Tiyani Nghonyama, chief operating office of Geekulcha, has been named as the IT Personality of the Year by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA). Alexander Forbes Group CIO Sandra La Bella has won the award for Visionary CIO for 2019.

At the annual IITPSA President’s Awards in Johannesburg this morning, Aerobotics, represented by chief operaring officer Timothy Willis, was awarded the Technology Excellence Award while Frans Kalp, CEO of Ligbron E-Learning Systems, won the Social Responsibility/Community Award.

Professor Rossouw von Solms, director of the Centre for Research in Information and Cyber Security at the Nelson Mandela University School of ICT, was honoured with a Distinguished Service in ICT award, and Professor Elize Ehlers, head of the Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Johannesburg, received an IITPSA Fellowship award.

The President’s Awards, now in their 41st year, was themed NE><T, to celebrate the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the arrival of the next generation – Generation Z – in the workplace.

IITPSA CEO Tony Parry comments that it is encouraging to note that the 2019 IITPSA President’s Awards nominees and finalists had all been world-class, reflecting the overall high standards and innovation of the ICT profession in South Africa.

IITPSA president Thabo Mashegoane urges the sector to do more to empower the next generation to use technologies and enter the ICT profession, before the 4IR widened the gaps between haves and have-nots.

“At IITPSA, we think the ICT sector is perfectly positioned to help South Africa transition into this brave new world. Our industry has the knowledge and resources to put the right technology tools into the hands of the next generation, allowing them to self-teach if necessary; and enabling them to start their own small businesses,” he says.

“Our businesses, our professionals and our industry bodies can do a great deal to make the 4IR work for our people. Our ICT professionals can help to educate youths and communities about new technology; play an advisory and mentoring role to young professionals, and up-skill from within organisations. By doing this we can contribute towards closing the skills gap.”

About the winners

Tiyani Nghonyama, the director and chief operating officer of Geekulcha and Strategic Lead of the Northern Cape Developer (NCDev) Ecosystem, is a qualified Computer Systems Engineer sits on the Advisory Committee Boards of the Tshwane University of Technology and the Vaal University of Technology for Computer Science.

Since 2014, he has worked with the University of South Africa in building Open Source stamina, pipeline and innovation development and he champions the role of Hackathons and Open Dataquests to help accelerate academic excellence.

Since Geekulcha’s creation in 2013, he has been at the forefront of testing and implementing Geekulcha business cases for clients such as IBM South Africa, ABinBev, Open Data Institute, Intel Software and Services, Microsoft South Africa, and the British Council.

In 2015, he created the Geekulcha Student Society programme at Sol Plaatje University, and this programme has now spread to 17 campus in five provinces in the country.  He also spearheaded the creation of the Future GeekStars programme to expose and equip youngsters with the right skills for the ICT industry, as well as the Geekulcha Vacation Work programme, which benefit 1,440 learners in five provinces.

Winning the IITPSA IT Personality of the Year award takes him closer to his long-held ambition “to be included in history books”.

Sandra La Bella, group CIO at Alexander Forbes, is described as a passionate, energetic and decisive executive leader with over 34 years’ technology experience.

She has driven the transformation and overall strategic direction across diverse industries including financial services, banking, food and manufacturing and retail, with her roles including Software Design and Development, Programme Directing, Chief Information Officer, Head of Technology Transformation and Adoption, Cloud and Strategic Change, Transformation Lead and Technology Risk officer. La Bella is renowned for success in the interpretation of the Business Strategy into a Technology Strategy.

Aerobotics is a South African agritech startup providing tree crop protection to farmers through early problem detection and alerts.

Its Aeroview platform combines weekly satellite data, drone imagery and scout information to track farm performance on a per-tree basis, allowing farmers to take a data-driven approach to optimise the health of their farm.

The software uses machine learning to identify early stage problems, automatically detect pests and diseases, and guide farmers to these locations.

Co-founder Benji Meltzer holds a BSc in Mechatronics Engineering and an MSc in Neurotechnology focussed on machine learning and computational neuroscience. He has worked as a software engineer and business analyst in Johannesburg, Chile and Australia, as well as working as Uber’s Operations and Logistics Manager for Sub Saharan Africa.

Frans Kalp, CEO of Ligbron E-Learning Systems, with a Higher Education Diploma in Electronics & Electrical Technology, is tasked with the development and implementation of new E-Learning methods in schools and training centres in Africa, as well as for teacher development in the use of ICT in the classroom, and the setup of IT systems.

With 18 awards for education innovation to his credit, he has visited more than 14 countries during the past 11 years to share his E-Learning strategies for virtual classroom teaching; focusing on a unique live online streaming network that bridges the rural-urban divide and gives access anywhere and anytime.

The Ligbron e-Learning System connects schools to an online learning network, allowing for live streaming of mathematics and science lessons and enabling remote students to take an active part in the lessons.

Prof Rossouw von Solms, Centre for Research in Information and Cyber Security at the NMU School of ICT, has been active in the ICT field since 1982, when he was appointed as a lecturer at the then Port Elizabeth Technikon.

He later headed the Department of Information Technology at the PE Technikon,  helped establish the Technikon Computer Lecturers Association (TECLA) and served for many years on the Council of the South African Institute for Computer Scientists and Information Technologists (SAICSIT), winning a  SAICSIT Pioneer Award for his role in promoting computer science and ICT as academic disciplines.

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