Here they are. TechCentral’s top-five newsmakers of 2010. Our “Newsmakers of the Year” award is presented to individuals we believe had the biggest impact on SA’s technology sector in the past 12 months. For the most part, they’re also the the people who made the headlines in 2010.
We’d love your feedback on our choices — please use the comments box at the end of this article. — Staff reporter, TechCentral
Brett Dawson and Jeremy Ord
The acquisition by Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NTT) Corp of SA’s largest IT group, Dimension Data, is both a good news story and a bad news story.
The good news is that the deal is remarkable testimony to the hard graft CEO Brett Dawson, chairman Jeremy Ord and the rest of the Didata team have put in in recent years. When the dot-com bubble burst after 2001, and the hubris vanished, Ord and Dawson quietly got on with the job of rebuilding Didata in a radically changed IT environment.
NTT’s R24,4bn all-cash offer for the group is a culmination of that work. It’s just sad — and this is the bad news — that the deal means a mainstay of the local stock market is delisting after 23 years on the bourse. — DM
On Digital Media (ODM) CEO Vino Govender just had to make this year’s list for the fact that his company was the first — and is still the only — broadcaster to launch a rival pay-TV service to MultiChoice’s DStv.
ODM’s TopTV is understood to have signed up in excess of 100 000 paying customers since its launch in May. Govender won’t disclose exact numbers for competitive reasons. But what we do know is that the company is gearing up to launch high-definition broadcasts next year and new channels are on the cards. A personal video recorder decoder is also coming.
However, ODM needs access to sports content, especially local soccer, if it’s going to be a meaningful long-term competitor to DStv.
This aside, its launch has gone off relatively smoothly. That’s more than can be said for potential rivals Super 5 Media and Walking on Water Television. — DM
Siphiwe Nyanda and Mamodupi Mohlala
The former communications minister and his director-general were all over the news this year — but for all the wrong reasons.
Siphiwe Nyanda, sacked as minister in October by President Jacob Zuma, had got off to a promising start in 2009. But, as he waded ever deeper into controversy around his business interests and taxpayer-funded hotel stays, he seemed to spend more time fighting fires than looking after the communications portfolio.
On Nyanda’s watch, the SABC stumbled from one crisis to another. And on the policy front he achieved virtually nothing.
Then things went completely pear-shaped when he fell out with his fiery former director-general, Mamodupi Mohlala. When Mohlala challenged his decision to fire her, he was forced to reinstate her to the position while public service & administration minister Richard Baloyi looked for alternative employment for her in government.
We thought it was impossible for anyone to do a worse job than the late minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. Nyanda proved us wrong. — DM
We had some debate at TechCentral about whether MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen deserved to be our number-one newsmaker of the year for 2010. In the end, it was a fairly close-run affair with the man we eventually selected for our top spot.
Jansen’s MWeb has reshaped the broadband market in SA this year, challenging conventions, and finally making (relatively) affordable uncapped broadband a reality for ordinary consumers.
In the process, Jansen made a few enemies — mainly among those with vested interests in the telecommunications industry. In the end, though — and whatever the company’s ultimate motives — MWeb has done broadband users an enormous favour.
We look forward to seeing what Jansen and his team — not to mention the broader Naspers group under which MWeb falls — have up their sleeves for 2011. — DM
In 2009’s newsmakers list, Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt squeaked in at number nine. Back then, Reichelt had just announced the cellular operator’s plans to launch a third-generation mobile broadband network.
A year later, and the network is live in most major towns and cities across the country in what must have been one of the fastest-ever network roll-outs.
Cell C has got itself into some trouble along the way — calling its network 4G, and later 4Gs, backfired on it. And the similarity of its rebranded logo to the copyright symbol attracted a fair share of controversy.
But mostly the network roll-out has gone fairly smoothly, all things considered. And, where a year ago Cell C’s bigger rivals MTN and Vodacom could for the most part afford to ignore their smaller competitor, they now take the company very seriously indeed.
In no small part thanks to the company’s aggressive marketing campaign involving comedian Trevor Noah as “CEO”, Cell C has become the talk of the town. Kudos for that must go to Cell C’s marketing director, Simon Camerer.
The company’s broadband pricing has also helped with awareness and interest, with an introductory offer that got consumers to sit up and take notice.
Of course, there’s much work still to do, expanding the network to more parts of the country, and ensuring the fibre-optic links are in place to continue to provide the sort of bandwidth speeds being delivered now.
According to his colleagues, Reichelt is a perfectionist and a workaholic. He must be. What he’s achieved in a year is a remarkable feat. Cell C’s real CEO richly deserves the accolade of TechCentral’s Newsmaker of the Year for 2010. — DM