Cisco has announced a R215-million investment in the Cisco Innovation Hub Technology Centre (CIHTC), the first move in a series of programmes that are expected to drive R1-billion in GDP (gorss domestic product) over five years.

The CIHTC will become the home of ICT initiatives including an InnovationLab, a global Talent Acquisition Programme, the Cisco Netversity, an Entrepreneur Institute and a Software Development Programme.
Sipho Zikode, acting-deputy director general; Enterprise and Industry Development Division of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), comments: "We look forward to the positive contributions that they will make to South African industry, the ICT sector and the people of South Africa at large."
The centre, an advanced technology incubation centre aimed at fostering and developing local skills, intellectual property, entrepreneurship and solution development capabilities in the local ICT sector, is expected to have far reaching implications and will create a minimum of 200 direct and 800 indirect employment opportunities.
This includes the development of intellectual property, the creation of design and network engineers, local software development, state of the art networking communications laboratories, access to business guidance as well as to provide a showcase for venture capital providers looking to fund solutions or businesses that may result from the centre's operations.
Steve Midgley, MD of Cisco SA, says that emerging markets provide the biggest opportunity for social and economic transformation.
"South Africa is on the brink of entering a broadband boom," he says. "This will change the way people live and work – giving the public sector and business the opportunity to gain significant efficiencies, to drive productivity enhancements, to achieve cost reductions and to gain access to new market segments within their existing business models.  It will also create an enabling platform from which new business models can be created.
"Cisco is investing in this initiative now to ensure that when the broadband revolution really kicks off, South Africa has enough of the right kind of skills, solutions creation capabilities and intellectual property  to leverage the many benefits broadband will bring to the country."
The Centre will comprise five initiatives:
* The InnovationLab: Operated by a team of consulting and development entrepreneurs, the InnovationLab has been running since the beginning of 2008 and ocuses on developing technology solutions to solve common business challenges in the South African market. The Lab is currently developing solutions in education and crime prevention and it is anticipated that the aforementioned projects alone could result in local sales revenues of approximately R30-million and potential sales export opportunities of the same amount for entrepreneurs and their partners.
* Cisco Global Talent Acquisition Programme (GTAP): With a growing shortage of skilled networking professionals in South Africa and around the world, GTAP has already absorbed the first group of students to create high (''PHD'') level network engineers at a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) level in an accelerated forum. Under normal market conditions, CCIE-level experience is created after 15 years' working experience. Cisco aims to condense this into approximately 18 months with the goal of creating a minimum of 120 CCIE-level network engineers over a five year period for the local market, at Cisco's cost.   Quality will be assured by graduates having to sit the same examinations as their peers with 15 years experience.
* Cisco Netversity: This skills development programme aims to create a minimum of 150 Network Design Engineers for the local market, at Cisco's cost, through an experiential architecture and design training programme.
* Cisco Entrepreneur Institute: Cisco aims to train 250 entrepreneurs through the institute, with the first intake of students graduating before the end of 2008. The Institute is a non-profit endeavour that will teach entrepreneurial skills with a curriculum that covers various aspects such as starting, growing and tech-enabling a business. The curriculum draws on various sources from leading academic institutions such as Stanford and Cornell Universities. Graduates will gain practical entrepreneurial skills and will have access to tools, capabilities and social networks that will enable a career as an entrepreneur. As the programme is web-based, Cisco anticipates a much larger community to be able to access and leverage the tools that are available.
* Cisco GTAP Software Development Programme: Cisco will invest in software engineers to address the demand for software development skills in South Africa. Located at the CIHTC, the programme will focus on developing applications for Cisco's own business requirements. The applications will initially be used by Cisco to automate key business processes, but after introduction into Cisco's enterprise environment, the source code will be made available for local software entrepreneurs to innovate upon and offer local software innovations for sale in the local or export markets.