CIO SA tech news round-up: CTO David Walker visits South Africa, highly-accomplished software engineer Professor Barry Dwolatzky passes away, and more

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Renowned data management expert and Yugabyte CTO David Walker visits South Africa, a great loss for South Africa’s ICT sector as Wits ‘Grand Geek’ Professor Barry Dwolatzky passes away, and OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman calls for AI to be regulated.

Obsidian Systems to host Yugabyte CTO

Obsidian Systems, a supplier of open-source software solutions, will host David Walker, field CTO for EMEA, at Yugabyte this week for a special visit to South Africa. The visit aims to strengthen the partnership between Obsidian Systems and Yugabyte, expand Yugabyte’s presence in the region, and provide local businesses with valuable insights into the advantages of adopting distributed SQL databases.

Yugabyte is a global leader in providing high-performance, distributed SQL databases, helping organisations scale and manage their data more efficiently.

“We are thrilled to host David. This visit highlights our commitment to bringing the best database technology solutions to our clients and the local business community,” says Muggie van Staden, managing director of Obsidian Systems.

David brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this visit, with a 30-year technology career dedicated to helping companies exploit data across various industries, such as financial services, fintech, retail, telco, manufacturing, transportation, and the public sector.

He implemented crucial systems for several high-profile organisations, including the Dutch National Police, Diageo, Network Rail, Turkcell, and Telkom SA.

“David’s extensive experience and expertise in the field make him an invaluable resource in driving innovation and growth. We are confident that this partnership between Obsidian Systems and Yugabyte will empower businesses in the region to scale and manage their data more effectively, while fostering stronger relationships between our companies,” says Muggie.

Redstor boosts efforts in Kenya to empower MSPs amid growing cloud adoption

Redstor, a born-in-the-cloud software vendor and provider of the smarter cloud backup platform tailored for managed service providers (MSPs), is ramping up its efforts in Kenya to meet the increasing demand for cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions in the region.

According to a Cloud in Africa 2023 study conducted by World Wide Worx, Kenyan organisations topped the list of cloud services big spenders in 2022, with 84 percent of them increasing their spending on cloud services.

To support this growth and strengthen its commitment to MSPs in the Kenyan market, Redstor will host a Redstor Partner in May. This event is designed to offer delegates an opportunity to learn about Redstor's innovative cloud backup solutions and explore potential collaborations in the rapidly expanding cloud and SaaS market in Kenya.

“With the remarkable surge in cloud adoption across Kenya, we recognise the immense potential for Redstor to assist MSPs in safeguarding their customers’ data while managing their backup strategies more effectively,” says Dylan Cairns, marketing manager at Redstor. “Our presence in Kenya through this partner event demonstrates not only our unwavering commitment to supporting this growth, but also our dedication to providing our expertise to local MSPs, empowering them to deliver secure and reliable services to their clients.”

Wits mourns the passing of Prof Barry Dwolatzky – SA’s ‘Grand Geek’

This week, the University of the Witwatersrand announced the passing of Professor Barry Dwolatzky – an innovator, strategist, and humanitarian who dedicated more than 50 years of his life to Wits.

“His passing is a great loss to the Wits community where he touched the lives of students, staff, researchers, academics, industry partners, innovators, entrepreneurs and friends in so many ways. In addition to his many achievements and awards, he will be remembered for his humility and humanity, and his ability to make every person with whom he came into contact, feel special,” the University said in a statement.

“We extend our condolences to his family and friends, colleagues and students around the world, and those who knew him well. The Wits flag above the Great Hall will fly at half-mast tomorrow in honour of Professor Dwolatzky. May he rest in peace, knowing that his legacy will live on for generations to come.”

Professor Barry Dwolatzky was known as the ‘Grand Geek’ of digital innovation in South Africa.

Most recently he served as the director of innovation strategy in the office of the deputy vice-chancellor: research and innovation, where he used his experience and knowledge and his network of local and international collaborations to drive the strategy that supports research, innovation and entrepreneurship at Wits. He was also instrumental in conceptualising, developing and imagining the Wits Innovation Centre, which was launched in April this year.

Professor Dwolatzky was also an Emeritus Professor in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, as well as founder and the director of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE), and the founder of the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, the University’s digital innovation hub located in Braamfontein.

His primary focus over the past 30 years has been the growth and development of the South African software engineering sector. In 2005, he was the major driver in setting up the JCSE at Wits. In 2013, he spearheaded the establishment of a major digital innovation hub in Braamfontein which became the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct. Tshimologong has attracted significant support from the government and a range of major local and international companies, including the IBM Research Laboratory.

OpenAI’s Sam Altman calls for AI to be regulated

Testifying before a US Senate committee this week, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company behind AI chatbot ChatGPT said that a new agency should be formed to license AI companies.

Sam also said that AI may be as large as “the printing press”, although he acknowledged its possible risks. When responding to Senate questioning, he also acknowledged the economic implications of AI, including the possibility that AI technology could replace some occupations, resulting in layoffs in specific industries.

“There will be an impact on jobs. We try to be very clear about that,” he said.

However, some senators argued new laws were needed to make it easier for people to sue OpenAI.

Sam expressed concern to legislators about the possible influence on democracy, as well as how AI may be used to convey targeted misinformation during elections. He proposed many ways for a new agency in theUS to oversee the business, including issuing and revoking permits for AI companies, as well as having organisations like OpenAI independently audited.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley said the technology has the potential to be groundbreaking, but he also compared it to the discovery of the “atomic bomb”.

According to Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, an AI-dominated future “is not necessarily the future that we want”.

“We need to maximise the good over the bad. Congress has a choice now. We had the same choice when we faced social media. We failed to seize that moment,” he warned.

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