High tech Braam city

Wits is set to transform a cluster of five abandoned buildings in Braamfontein into technology hubs.

The project is called Tshimologong, a Sesotho word for “new beginnings”.

It will be a space for software design, innovation and technological development.

Located near East Campus, the tech hubs will be equipped with advanced internet connectivity, offer technology courses and spaces for the collaboration of new business ideas.

Director of the Wits Joburg Centre for Software Engineering, Prof Barry Dwolatzky, is driving the transformation of this Braamfontein precinct into a technology city.

“It’s not our intention to tear down buildings and rebuild them. It would be too easy and very expensive. We are planning to repurpose existing buildings, as it’s much cheaper and we are trying to show what can be done with old buildings,” Dwolatzky told Wits Vuvuzela.

Braamfontein’s location is favourable to business and the availability of different types of transport make it attractive for hosting the tech hubs.

“Would it make sense to put it [tech hubs] at Sandton or Soweto? Young South Africans are more drawn to Joburg as a place to work, live and play”.

Dwolatzky also said Braamfontein is a city which attracts young, dynamic and smart people.

With a price tag of “R20 to R40 million” the two-phase rollout of tech hubs might sound like a geek’s paradise, or targeted only at Wits students who are techno-savvy, but Dwolatzky said this was not the case.

He said the tech hubs are targeted at “anyone who can get into Braamfontein. From school kids to old people who just want to interact in this space”.

He said the tech hubs in Braamfontein would “create the same energy that Silicon Valley has”.

Dwolatzky raised concerns about Wits being isolated from Braamfontein.

He said people do not acquaint themselves with the city and security concerns have led to the erection of high fences and stricter controls on access cards to campus.

“We are not interacting with our neighbourhood. Part of this project is to get Wits to jump the fence, get Wits to start to operate, not only on our campus but inner city Braamfontein.”

When the tech hubs gain traction and support from the public, Dwolatzky hopes to replicate the model in other provinces and later explore the continent.