Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cape Town for Medinfo

I am in Cape Town, South Africa for the medinfo 2010 conference. Today is the opening ceremony and welcome at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Travel to get here, via a national express Coach to Heathrow and then a British Airways overnight flight was long but not too much hassle. Being asked to step into the full body scanner after I had passed through security was a new experience, but I couldn’t see the image which was taken – perhaps thankfully – otherwise I might have shared it here as an example on innovative protective/intrusive technologies!
I met a few people also travelling to medinfo at the airport while waiting for the transfer bus & then had a tour of the city while people were dropped at various hotels. A colleague at work (thanks Leigh) had booked me into the Protea Breakwater Lodge Hotel, one of the cheapest in the area, which, is part of and integrated with the Graduate Business School of the University of Cape Town and has an interesting history having previously served as a prison for convicts working on the construction of the breakwater for the early harbour in the 1850s and 60s. The current buildings include the industrial breakwater prison which was built in 1901, later serving juvenile offenders and then, until 1989, as a hostel for black dock workers.

My room wasn’t ready for a morning arrival so I dumped my bags and went for a warm and sunny wander around the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, which is just over the road from the hotel. This is a revamped part of the docks which has been developed as a shopping and cultural centre, with a variety of attractions, bars, cafes and restaurants, while preserving some of the interesting industrial and cultural buildings. It is quite reminiscent of the new developments at Bristol’s floating harbour. Back at the hotel I got into my room and grabbed a much needed shower and then went back to the waterfront to catch a ferry to Robben Island Museum This world heritage site has become famous since the release of nelson Mandela and the tour provides a guided coach ride around the island stopping at historic sites before a walk around the prison buildings, including Mandela’s cell led by one of the ex political prisoners. I hadn’t slept much on the plane and by this point and by this point I was exhausted so I had a meal at the hotel and went to bed.

After breakfast this morning I went for a walk/scramble up and around Signal Hill, so called because the noon gun is still fired from it, and got some good photos of Cape Town. The walk included seeing some birds, plants and butterflies I’d never seen before and conversations/directions from some of Cape Town’s down and outs that seem to congregate there. It provides impressive views over Cape Town. I then walked down the hill to Sea Point and Three Anchor Bay before strolling, passed the Cape Town Stadium, back to the hotel to get ready for the walk to the conference centre for the opening of the conference.

The registration process worked quite well with appropriate name badges etc & then picking up a conference bag with the proceedings etc. After a quick scan of the programme I found the speakers to to upload my presentation & asked the technician for the password for the event wifi system. A quick wander around the large building & a chat with a few other delegates has identified major problems with the wifi signal not reaching the whole building & the signal dropping on a regular basis - this doesn't bode well for the next few days when there will be hundreds of people trying to access it at the same time. The medinfo technicians have reported this to the CTICC staff & hopefully it will get better.

The opening ceremony began with the South African Youth Choir singing SA National Anthem - Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. This was followed by Lyn Hammer (the chair of the local organising committee) who introduced Reinhold Haux (The outgoing president of IMIA) who gave an overview of IMIA and thanked various people who had been involved in the organisation of the conference. He also presented Honorary Fellowship of IMIA to Sedick Isaacs.

The road for the Medinfo conference to Cape town was set out with an introduction to the key theme of partnerships with a special emphasis on Africa, which has been adopted for the event. The cochairs of the scientific programme committee described the large number of submissions of papers, posters, panels etc for the and how they had been selected and then Charles Safran described the procedures in producing the proceedings.

The first keynote was given by Dr Najeeb Al-Shorbaji from the World Health organisation, who gave an overview of many of the existing health challenges particularly in developing countries and focused on the role of ICT and ehealth in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The second keynote was given by the South African government health minister who outlined the priorities highlighted within the country. The closing event of the opening ceremony was a concert by the South African Youth Orchestra, who were obviously enjoying their presentation which also went down well with the audience.
An informal reception with wine and various meals followed which provided and opportunity to meet up with old friends and make some new ones amongst the delegates.



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