The opening of GovTech 2009 has been an interesting experience, leaving me with the question of whether it is an opportunity to showcase the best of what is happening in the relationship between Government and the ICT sector, or is it a performer's paradise interspersed with occasional business sessions?
Let's face it - in 2009 it is definitely no less expensive to stage the fourth GovTech for over 2 000 delegates than it was to stage the first one for about half that number.In these tough times, that makes it so much more important that every rand invested in GovTech by sponsors, delegates and government should be leveraged for maximum business return.
Nobody would begrudge SITA celebrating its 10th anniversary at this prestigious event, so it made sense that the "legends" theme would honour an illustrious group of men and women who have become legends in the South African ICT sector.However, it would have meant more to the audience had there been an explanation of this legendary line-up being the pre-cursor to a future awards programme that would focus on the achievements of public sector performers, contributing over and above the call of duty to the application of ICTs in service delivery improvement.It would have made even more sense to many of the younger members of the audience had there been a potted history of each awardee up on the screen as their names were called, to remind delegates of the notable claim to fame of each legend.
But that's really a minor issue.What puzzles me more is the energy and expense that goes into the non-business elements of the opening of the conference.Deafening rock music suitable for a "rave" venue is not conducive to the establishing (or re-establishing) of contacts with one's peers, of renewing the network that is the lifeblood of successful business development.Similarly, a conference day that has already started late does not need the preface of an amusing but irrelevant mime/acrobatic performance.Business is business.
And when it came to setting the business scene, the Minister, Richard Baloyi, said all the right things in an articulate and comprehensive speech.He emphasised government's need to improve service delivery by being more citizen-centric and said that a ministerial group had been formed to support SITA (from the Ministries that most depend on SITA's services) and noted that SITA is taking a leaf from ABSA's book with a slogan that goes, "SITA today, SITA tomorrow, SITA to the future".
Minister Baloyi also mentioned the increasing importance of community development workers, who would use technology to take government services to citizens where they live, rather than asking citizens to come to government offices.A new buzz-phrase comes to mind - GTTH, or government to the home!
My last plea to the organisers - find a way to avoid the "give away scramble".Every year, there is a period of chaos when delegates discover they must collect an item of GovTech clothing from the registration desks.If these items cannot be made available at the time of registration, please find a way of distributing them that does not involve long, long queues!
But GovTech is still the best networking event of the year...