UCT boffins may meet Bill Gates


Cape Town - A team of four honours graduates from UCT may have the chance to show their project to the man who founded Microsoft.

UCT team Fo(u)r Slaves took second place out of 42 teams in the South African leg of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup in Pretoria last week.

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File photo: Winners this year will also have the opportunity to meet privately with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Fo(u)r Slaves is one of three South African teams that will take their product to the Middle East and Africa regional online competition in the coming weeks. From there, they may be chosen to compete in the world finals in Seattle in July.

Team members Shiraz Amond, Andrew Tainton, Alain de Jager, and Mark Robinson were students in UCT’s information systems honours programme last year when they were approached by Cape Town company Open Box Software.

The company wanted to change its internal communication system and get rid of inefficient e-mail lists and memo protocols.

Using Open Box software, Fo(u)r Slaves developed [email protected], a program which centralises communication in a kind of “virtual bulletin board”.

“It creates an open, transparent and inclusive culture,” Robinson said.

But the program’s real innovation is the way it uses information. By using general data about worker happiness and tracking data from each employee who uses the system, [email protected] can measure how happy your employees are.

Say you have an employee who normally works eight hours a day, but suddenly that person starts putting in 13-hour days.

“The system will flag you as an outlier and send a message to your line manager saying: ‘Hey, this person might not be doing so well. You should check up on her’,” Robinson said.

Now in its 12th year, Imagine Cup is a Microsoft YouthSpeak programme that encourages young developers from around the world.

Last year, 87 teams from 71 countries competed for cash and other prizes in the world finals in St Petersburg.

Winners this year will also have the opportunity to meet privately with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. - Cape Times


[email protected]

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