Softworld 98:

Bishop's College
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Jonathan Brown

In recent years, government groups and private sector organizations have been aggressively promoting the tourism industry of Newfoundland. One of the main goals of this initiative was to attract national and international events and conferences. Already this year they have shown that their efforts did not end with the Cabot celebrations of 1997. Players from government, the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance of Technical Industries (NATI), along with Operation On-line, an organization formed to promote the information technology industry in Newfoundland, teamed up to land Softworld '98, "Canada's premier IT event".

The Softworld concept originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1991 where it debuted as a regional software forum. Since then, the regional forum has become an international event. In 1998, Softworld is expected to attract over 750 delegates from 33 countries. The governing body of the event is the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), an association with a membership of 1,400 IT companies, including Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Digital. The assocition holds the event in Vancouver every odd year and chooses a site in Atlantic Canada for the even years.

This year, St. John's, Newfoundland is the site of choice. However, this opportunity was not handed to the city on a silver platter. According to Jack Botsford, a member of the executive of Operation On-line and Board of Directors of Softworld '98; it took a team of 20 to 30 people, along with a strong showing at Softworld '96 in Halifax, to secure the winning bid for host city of this year's event. The three things which Mr. Botsford noted as being the keys to their success were the enthusiasm of the group, the commitment they showed at Softworld '96, and a co-host partnership with Aberdeen, Scotland; the first of its kind for Softworld. He said that this partnership was of great significance because it provided them with the ability to promote the conference in Europe like never before.

Softworld is a purely business-oriented event; it is not open to the general public. Anyone wishing to attend must pre-register and pay a fee of $795 Canadian and up. For people in the IT sector, this is the place to buy, sell and network with 750 of the top-ranked men and women in the industry, all together at the one event. For Newfoundland-based IT companies, Mr. Botsford says that having such a conference in their own backyards provides them with a great opportunity to show off in front of the world. Conference events such as the Buyers' and Sellers' Forums, and Software Marketplace will aid Newfoundland companies and others to strike deals with international partners. There is also a pubcrawl/culture night in the works where delegates will invade the downtown to share their culture's songs and traditions with their colleagues. After all, you can't have all work and no play.

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