This year I had the privilege of attending the Adapt IT Integrator and CELCAT Africa User Group conferences in Cape Town, South Africa. The Integrator User Group conference ran from the 11th to the 13th of March and was held at the lovely Century City conference venue, with stunning views of Table Mountain for the few hours when the Cape fog and rain cleared. The event was well-attended by several hundred users of the Integrator student record system, and for the first three days I joined the CELCAT Africa team at their information booth, where we received a great deal of interest and questions from both existing users and other interested representatives from educational institutions all over Africa. I presented a so-called “Meet the Expert” session on the Monday, which was aimed at non-users, and was attended by nearly twice the number of people than the previous year.

On Wednesday evening, after the main Integrator conference had ended, the CELCAT Africa conference guests were welcomed with a cocktail function at Cape Town’s famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The unpredictable weather played along for once, and we all enjoyed lovely food and drink under clear skies, and it was excellent to see CELCAT users mingle and relax informally.

The CELCAT Africa conference ran on Thursday the 14th for about 60 delegates. There were sessions to provide feedback on previous user proposals for new features, the interface between the Integrator system and CELCAT, two user presentations and some lively and robust discussions about the challenges faced by timetablers in Africa. The University of Johannesburg presented on their successful implementation of Room Booker, while AdaptIT demonstrated how a smartphone camera can be used to either scan barcodes or use facial recognition technology to mark student attendance. I did a quick demo of the new Web Data Collector tool, along with a presentation on how to move from decentralised to centralised timetabling. Finally, I assisted the CELCAT Arica team with answers to questions about new feature development.

Overall, both conferences were very successful, and extremely well organised. After an intense week of long-haul travel, full days, social events, late nights to keep on top of UK work and a nearly full day of presentations, I was happy to have a few hours to myself before my flight back to the UK. I used the opportunity to climb Table Mountain in 30-degree heat under blue skies, but I was very glad to take the cable car down. Landing in the snow in Edinburgh 30 hours later was a real shock to the system!