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2012 IT Personality, Visionary winners named

Quirk founder and CEO Rob Stokes is this year’s IT Personality winner.

Quirk founder and CEO Rob Stokes is this year’s IT Personality winner.

Rob Stokes, Quirk founder and CEO, has scooped this year's IT Personality of the Year award, and Sello Mmakau, CIO of the Department of Home Affairs, has won the Visionary CIO title.

The winners were announced at the Computer Society of SA President's Awards Breakfast at the Monte Casino ballroom, in Fourways, this morning.

Passion for education

Stokes' love of technology and constant search for innovative and fresh ideas helped him win the award, which recognises a person who has made an outstanding impact on the South African ICT industry and a significant contribution to the ICT profession.

Department of Home Affairs CIO Sello Mmakau was named Visionary CIO.

Department of Home Affairs CIO Sello Mmakau was named Visionary CIO.

In addition to Quirk - Africa’s largest online marketing agency, established in 1999 - Stokes founded a number of tech and software businesses, including BrandsEye and Idea Bounty.

He is also chairman of the Silicon Cape Initiative, an organisation created to promote tech entrepreneurship in the Western Cape and beyond.

Stokes said the best advice he ever got was Peter Drucker’s quote: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." It speaks to the importance of culture within an organisation to power people forward, and the importance of leadership, he explained. "As good as a strategy may or may not be, if the cultural element is right and people believe in it, a business has more chance of being successful.

"The single thing I’d change about the industry would be skills. I think as a whole, we are not very good at education, and education is the one thing that can change the world."

Stokes said what he finds most exciting about technology is the knowledge that it will give billions of people educational opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

"I deeply appreciate this award which was unexpected," Stokes said. He also dedicated his award to his team at Quirk. "I owe this to my team. Without them, this would not have been possible."

On winning the IT personality title, he said: "I deeply appreciate this award which was unexpected." He dedicated it to his team at Quirk. "I owe this to my team. Without them, this would not have been possible."

Value proposition

Mmakau, winner of the Visionary accolade, which recognises an executive who has demonstrated vision and leadership in using technology to support and grow business, previously worked as a senior IT manager at Sasol, implementing projects for the company's 35 000 employees. This prepared him to take on the biggest challenge of his career: reinventing the IT infrastructure at the then-dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs while facing a raft of legacy and bureaucratic hurdles.

This, and his contributions to some of government's recent success stories, including the Automated Fingerprint Verification System project with SA’s banks and the complex smart ID card pilot project, won him the Visionary title.

"The future of IT is bright; organisations have invested a lot in IT and are getting value. The gap between government and private sector in IT investment is very small. Government is getting ultimate value from that investment, which means we are doing something positive in government as CIOs."

Accepting the Visionary CIO of the Year award, Mmakau said: “I am humbled and overwhelmed by this award. There are lots of people who have supported me throughout my career and I would want to say thank you for all your support."

He thanked the home affairs IT team and singled out the support of the department's director-general, Mkuseli Apleni, who also attended the event.

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