A lot has been said and written about Johannesburg’s new tech hub Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, particularly how the initiative has the potential to transform the Johannesburg into a globally competitive technology centre.
The hub which finally launched this month forms part of what has been dubbed as ‘Silicon Braam‘, an ICT cluster, similar to Cape Town’s tech community, Silicon Cape which is also loosely modeled on Silicon Valley in the US.
The hub is a partnership between the University of the Witwatersrand’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE), the City of Johannesburg and the business sector. Corporates including Telkom, Microsoft, MMI, Cisco and IBM have also invested in the precinct.
Tshimologong, which means ‘a place of new beginnings’ in SeTswana, is a startup incubator, business accelerator and source of skills, says Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE and the primary driver of the project.
“The focus is on digital hardware, software and content. We are creating a hub space where people can get together, brainstorm and work on creative projects,” he says.
The project, according to Prof Dwolatzky, has been adopted from globally successful models and tailored to the local environment.
“We hope that transforming Braamfontein into Africa’s premier technology hub will inspire new talent, create jobs and lead to an economic renaissance,” he says.
A new beginning
The precinct is situated in a street block formerly home to night clubs, offices, a warehouse and retail shops. The space has now been transformed into a modern fusion of stone, steel and other natural materials and features flagship green construction principles including reuse of existing buildings and materials. The design concept is based on conserving the classic building structures, and focused on user functionality.
By its launch the precinct had already hosted tech events such as hackathons as well as the annual digital and creative showcase, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival.
Take a walk with us as we take you through some of Tshimolong’s standout features and highlights.
IBM research lab – This lab forms an important element of the Tshimologong Precinct and is a first-of-its-kind research facility that is tightly integrated into an innovation hub. The IBM lab will focus on advancing Big Data, cloud and mobile technologies to support South Africa’s national priorities, drive skills development and foster innovation-based economic growth.
The Space – The Space is an open plan event space as well as co-working area where members get to work, network and share ideas.
Tall room – A techie haven filled with bean bags and couches, this is a screening room where techpreneurs can demo their latest innovations. The Tall Room will also be used for exhibitions.
DAV centre – This is another important part Tshimologong and will house the Gauteng Department of e-Government’s DAV (Design and Validation) Centre. This is the province’s digital technology evaluation centre and will provide services such as testing and validation of new technology with the potential to be used by the province to change people’s lives, quality assurance services, stimulation of ICT entrepreneurship that will support the township economy as well as demonstration and briefing centre.
THE DIZ – The Digital Innovation Zone is a space in Smit Street where creatives, innovators and programmers can come together and collaborate. It is a versatile and connected space for Braamfontein’s digital startup scene.
The Glass Room – A substantial fishbowl open plan office that will be used for developers to showcase their creations.
iClub – An ultra-modern collaborative work and event space.
Founders Square, the Interchange and terrace – This space includes an open area hangout spot, canteen and coffee shop.
Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precint – An artist’s impression of what the precinct will look like after it has been completed.