#TADHackSA - Interview with Benjamin Marais - CIO, MTN

by - September 06, 2016

Today is the second day at the #TADHackSA and I had the opportunity to meet with the CIO of MTN, Benjamin Marais. He is the guy that brought us PayPal while at eBucks and worked at Discovery Vitality. He is also a qualified electrical and electronics engineer. And when I was chatting to him he sounded very nerdy... I mean very  passionate. :)

So when he got the "yellow" call from MTN, he saw this as an opportunity to be part of an ever changing industry where he can help to drive innovation forward. He  admits that he wont be able to do it alone and that he will rely on his team members to do this and hopefully others will be inspired to do the same.

He tells me that the idea for Hackathon came from one of his team members, Yusuf. MTN was contacted by TADHack and he loved the idea. Benjamin says the event took six months to plan and it all happened because of various departments, within the group, working together.

He sees #TADHackSA as an opportunity for developers to come up with solutions for Africa's many problems and also to expose our developers to a global platform. He also wants more African countries to be involved. Currently there are 10 countries that are involved and each has about 50 or more people participating in the event. "With so many developers involved, imagine how many solutions we can come up with"? Benjamin says.

To make sure that the event is a success, the developers are given a really comfortable environment and mentors to help them with their ideas and the process of making their goals achievable. The mentors had to attend a course to be able to guide these young men and women participating in the event.

Benjamin also wants #TADHackSA to be a platform that will attract women and young people who have an interest in the industry or who are willing to learn. He is aware that not every young person in the country has access to a computer let alone own one. Through #TADHackSA, he hopes to be a catalyst of collaborative relationships that opens opportunities for the previously disadvantaged groups.

To show support to women in the tech space, MTN hosted it's inaugural Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards this year. Stephanie Cowper, the winner of the Innovator Recognition Award is the judge of #TADHackSA.

As I write this, I am chilling in a beautiful multi-coloured space at the #TADHackSA event. So I wanted to know how they came up with it.  "I was inspired by Goggle's work environment and asked if this could be created for the team", Benjamin tells me.

With the caliber of people that I have seen today, this is going to be a really tough competition for the judges. So I asked Benjamin if he was the judge, what kind of app would he look for and why he would choose it.

"I would like to see apps that solve people's every day problems. Developers often try to make it cool while the app is not user friendly and leave people feeling frustrated. But most times it's issues solved in a simple way that keeps people interested for a long time in the product."

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Benjamin. Tomorrow we will continue as we find out which team will win competition. Stay tuned.

This series is brought to you by MTN.

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