I have been thinking about innovation—the action or process of introducing something new—and how it can be used to tackle some of the challenges facing South Africa. With formerly relied-upon entities failing to solve many of the country’s problems, innovation may well be our only hope. In this issue, we want to inspire you with some of the innovative solutions being applied by local companies. We also call on you to tell us about the innovative methods you have adopted to address challenges within your community. I am going to do the same by sharing my innovation story.
The Smart Township Project is something I am starting in my community. I hope that one day it will come to a community near you. In this issue, I share with you how it works, and I will continue to do so in subsequent issues until completion.
This issue of Fast Company is dedicated to innovative companies. This time around, our approach is different. We have observed companies and paid attention to the challenges they are solving, as well as how they go about solving them and their persistency in doing so. In this issue, we celebrate companies—and the people—that continue to innovate despite the challenges they face. Among them is DigsConnect, a company led by our cover star, Alexandria Procter. Her start-up has zoomed in on the student housing challenge by developing an information solution.
We also look beyond South Africa, visiting one of the most powerful leaders behind the drive to enforce data laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. Margrethe Vestager is taking the lead in addressing the Big Tech challenge in society. Her approach is a blueprint for leaders working to save society from those technology companies that are wreaking havoc on the internet. Vestager ushered two landmark pieces of legislation through the European Parliament this year, the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act. Both are having a ripple effect around the world—and finally forcing Big Tech companies to take responsibility for their actions.
In keeping with our mission to celebrate innovative companies, we are planning to host an African Innovation Festival in the first quarter of next year, from March 16 to 18. At this event we will be honouring some of the companies mentioned in this issue. We will also hear from some of the leaders building innovative companies, and learn more about their innovations.
As we look back on 2022 and forward to 2023, we want to wish you all success for your business and work plans in the year ahead. We will be here to inspire you—and we also hope to be inspired by your innovations. Please do share with us some of the innovative solutions you are applying in your businesses, as we may consider them in future as we go about informing the world of the amazing work being done by local companies.
As you read the 58th issue of Fast Company (SA), make a note of challenges you would like to address during 2023. My hope is that writing them down will inspire you to act, and serve as a reminder of why you do what you do.
In this regard, here is a quote attributed to Hungarian biochemist Dr Albert Szent-Györgyi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937.
“Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”
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