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All I want for Christmas…

Brainstorm asked local CIOs what they’d most like to find under the Christmas tree.

BY  Lesley Stones , 3 January 20120 comments

Bev Esterhuizen, Broll Property Group, believes SA’s economy would flourish with the improved provision of cheaper and more abundant bandwidth.| photo: Suzanne Gellphoto: Suzanne GellBev Esterhuizen, Broll Property Group, believes SA’s economy would flourish with the improved provision of cheaper and more abundant bandwidth.

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Listening to CIOs drawing up their Christmas wish list is a bit like listening to kids in a toy shop – they all want that one must-have hot gift of the year.

This Christmas, the only thing most CIOs are craving is bandwidth by the bucketful. Yet faster, cheaper bandwidth is a common wish for CIOs pretty much all year round, really, because so much of the work they do depends on it entirely.

Bev Esterhuizen, the director and IT executive for Broll Property Group, says her main Christmas wish is for affordable, reliable bandwidth that is widely available throughout the country.

Broll’s services include property valuations, leasing, corporate real estate services and facilities management, and it prides itself on its ability to cross-reference information from an enormous database compiled through years of experience and market research. That’s a lot of information, and Esterhuizen is in charge of making sure it’s always accurate and always available.

The assets owned by Broll’s clients are not all in high-density metropolitan areas. They are also scattered throughout the rural areas to meet the needs of the country’s population.

“Broll has a web-based system developed in-house that we use for the management of our clients’ assets, so we are reliant on our bandwidth,” she says. “Bandwidth providers should think less about profits and more about the standard of the service they provide to diverse communities wherever they are located. The economy would flourish with the improved provision of cheaper and more abundant bandwidth, as emerging entrepreneurs and start-up businesses would be able to benefit from the global economy’s buying power.”


In South Africa, there are more people accessing the web via phone than fixed line internet, which is a telling sign in itself. Gary Novitzkas, Kalahari.com
Bandwidth is also bugging Gary Novitzkas, CEO of kalahari.com. “If we could have one IT-related wish this festive season it would be the rollout of cheaper bandwidth in South Africa,” he says. “The cost of data is still the most expensive in developing markets and stifles not only internet penetration but also e-commerce as a whole. In South Africa, there are more people accessing the web via mobile phone than by fixed line internet, which is a telling sign in itself.”

Kalahari was one of the first online retailers in South Africa and now has more than one million registered customers. It launched way back in 1999, and Novitzkas says it is the country’s largest online retailer with millions of books, eBooks, music, DVDs, games, cameras, toys, gifts, stationery and electronic items.

“While kalahari.com was the first retailer to reach the record milestone of one million online shoppers in South Africa, we have also now launched a dedicated mobile shopping site to make it easy for all South Africans to shop online, wherever they are and regardless of their access to fixed line internet,” Novitzkas says. This implies that he is not entirely convinced the bandwidth suppliers will be demonstrating any Christmas cheer over the cost and availability of fixed line bandwidth just yet.

At FTI Consulting, the bandwidth complaint has a slightly different twist. “If I could make an IT-related wish for the coming year, it would be that more South African businesses use both video and tele-call conferencing for their meetings,” says Clare Williams, the company’s IT and operations manager.

“We all have a responsibility to help reduce South Africa’s carbon footprint and the advent of cheaper, more reliable video-conferencing methods allows us to conduct business in a more environmentally-conscious way. I also wish more people, especially those in rural areas, had access to broadband and mobile internet,” Williams says.

“Mobile internet specifically has the ability to dissolve the barriers between people and their ability to conduct business, especially if they are using the many social and commercial applications available on mobile platforms to create income through social entrepreneurship.”

FTI Consulting is a business advisory firm that helps organisations protect and enhance their value by overcoming challenges in mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, litigation, reputation management and restructuring.

Simplicity is a more pressing Christmas wish for Gateway Communications, probably because the pan-African networking business has almost as much bandwidth as it needs. Gateway switches billions of minutes of international voice traffic every year, so it is entirely dependent on IT for a minute-by-minute awareness of what is happening in the business, says CIO Olivier Leprêtre. It also needs to keep on top of changes in pricing or volume trends, and to monitor any incidents that affect its ability to deliver services to its mobile operator customers.

That information is shared with customers via its customer portal, or extranet.

“My IT-related wish for Christmas is that it would be great if this information could be supplied to both our customers and our own team members on any platform – smartphone, tablet, laptop or other computing device – without extensive reworks being required to port the interface between platforms,” Leprêtre says. “This would enable us to concentrate far more on the information value of the content, and how to keep enhancing it to deliver real business value, rather than spending a lot of time trying to accommodate the myriad mobile devices that are out there, and that our customers would like to use to access the extensive indepth management information we make available to them.”

Oh, and there’s one more thing, Leprêtre says. “If Santa has any space left in his sack, limitless skilled resources would be a wonderful stocking filler. There are always more requests for IT changes and enhancements than there are people able to make them happen!”