September, 2010

  • How Africa can become the next Bric


    Posted by Cheick Diarra
    Chairman for Africa

    It was with great interest that I recently read an opinion article in the Financial Times on How Africa can become the next Bric, authored by Jim O’Neill, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, who originally coined the ‘Brics’ acronym. I am delighted to see that Africa’s potential is being likened to that of the other big emerging growth markets.  

    The article lists a number of ‘micro components’ that must be addressed in order for African countries to improve their growth prospects (stability of law and government, improving education, spreading the use of mobile phones and internet), but I would like to add that fundamental to this analysis is the necessary investment in technology infrastructure to make this all happen.

    The common connective glue in this development equation is technology – and much more so than in growing the use of mobile phones and internet. In recent years Africa’s people have become much more digitally aware, especially decision makers within Government, and I believe that technology will continue to be an important catalyst to help governments serve their citizens more effectively by helping to address their security, reliability and regulatory challenges. Technology also leads to increased jobs and business development, broadening social and economic opportunities for Africa’s citizens. But first and foremost, it is important to note that increasing connectivity or distributing computers and software will have limited impact on development without investment in Africa’s most important resource – its people. Expanding educational opportunities and digital literacy in communities is critical to enabling people to harness the opportunities that technology can offer.  

    The private sector has a critical role to play here – partnerships between the private and public sector are essential for creating and sustaining growth and development, enabling more effective programme development and delivery through the sharing of mutual experience. Microsoft is already engaging in high impact public private-partnerships to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of national institutions and their development partners here in Africa. If we work in partnership to provide the right infrastructures and the right opportunities and access to skills and knowledge to support the creation of wealth and sustainable growth, then the citizens of Africa will do the rest. If we work together, we can lay the foundations for a new African Bric in the wall. 


  • Africa perfectly poised for the cloud

    Posted by Hennie Loubser  
    Regional General Manager for West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands

    I recently attended CIO Africa Summit in Nairobi, where African ICT professionals gathered to discuss Africa’s IT opportunities and challenges. One of this year’s clear focus areas was the developing potential of the cloud.

    Microsoft has invested heavily in cloud computing for over a decade — 70 percent of our 40,000 R&D engineers work on cloud based solutions, and this will rise. We already run some of Africa’s largest cloud services, like Hotmail and Windows LIVE.

    The cloud needs bandwidth, and Africa is ready to deliver. Undersea telecommunications cable projects such as WACS, ACE and SEACOM are helping to drive better and more affordable bandwidth access. In addition, because Africa is free from the legacy of established and aging telecommunications infrastructures, it enjoys world-class GSM networks, and operators are making further investment to improve services.

    Seizing the opportunities of the cloud brings African governments and businesses three core benefits:

    Cost: With immediate access to the world’s latest ICT technologies, implementation costs can be reduced and IT budgets used more efficiently, as customers now pay for what they use.

    Manageability:  The continent is a huge territory with some areas that are difficult to access. The cloud will increase the speed to market through simpler implementation, irrespective of geographic location, while maintaining high security standards.

    Productivity: With access to the cloud available from any location, users will experience a number of productivity benefits, including use of the latest software, increased internet collaboration and instant self-provisioning.

    In Ethiopia, for example, the government saved 80 percent in operating expenses by using a cloud-based solution from a Microsoft partner to support the roll-out of over 250,000 laptops to schools. 

    Before businesses in Africa can embrace the cloud – the following needs to be considered: 

    Companies should use an IT maturity model and fully assess their IT capabilities. 

    Thereafter, the first step should be the outsourcing of base capabilities, such as messaging, for which Microsoft offers an off the shelf solution.

    In creating an effective ICT environment and working with companies such as Microsoft, Africa is perfectly placed to exploit the economic and social opportunities of the cloud.  Microsoft wants to make the cloud a reality in Africa.  We will continue to help the citizens of west, east and central Africa to implement technology that achieves results. To this end, we are partnering with businesses, governments and developers on the cloud journey into Africa.



  • Microsoft Helps Create the UNESCO KINL (Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy) Portal

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that in conjunction with International Literacy Day it is launching a new portal for supporting and promoting literacy efforts globally. The portal, called the Knowledge an Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) has been supported by Microsoft and Verizon.

    Read more about how this new portal is intended to be a global workplace where literacy researchers and workers can connect, share information and discuss literacy in English, Spanish and French on our sister blog Microsoft on the Issues.

  • Africa’s Pioneers in Education

    Posted by Zeid Shubailat
    Education Director, Microsoft Middle East and Africa

    Last week, nearly 100 educators, experts and school administrators gathered in Mombasa, Kenya for the third annual Pan-African Innovative Education Forum. We thank our generous hosts and partners at the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, who held three days of interactive workshops, teacher exhibitions and judging on their school grounds so that we could share and debate the latest best practices in teaching.

    We were inspired by the motivation and excitement of the teachers who stayed up late refining their exhibition projects, while the school administrators in attendance led the way with their dedication to finding new ways of improving their schools’ teaching methodologies and learning environments.

    At the event’s closing ceremony on August 26 where over 15 countries in Africa were represented, we took the opportunity to recognise and reward the teachers that had demonstrated the most exemplary uses of technology in the classroom to improve student learning.

    The regional “Best Practice” winners of the 2010 Innovative Teacher Awards at the Pan-African Innovative Education Forum were: 

    • Samuel Avornyor of Ghana received the “Innovation in Community” Award for his “Rural Food Processing Industries” project that best connected the educator or learner to a broader school community. In researching food processing techniques Samuel’s students have gone one step further by helping local industries manage their productivity and develop marketing strategies using ICT.
    • Linda Bradfield of South Africa received the “Innovation in Collaboration” Award for her “Trash to Treasure” project that best facilitated ease of collaboration among specific groups beyond the classroom. Linda’s project demonstrated how 6 and 7 year olds collaborate with their community of parents and trash collectors to collect and process waste, using ICT to document their story and their learning
    • Warren Sparrow of South Africa received the “Innovation in Content” Award for his “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” project that best provided learners with an enhanced perspective on and experience of the content that it covers. To learn about entrepreneurship, Warren’s Grade 4 students designed board games and created videos which were published online so that their parents could follow the project from home.
    • Lilian Ofori-Asare of Lesotho received the “Educator’s Choice Award” for her “Amazing Maize” project voted as the most innovative by the Innovative Teacher Finalists. Lilian’s students collaborated with students in Ghana in researching and sharing information about how maize is used as a main meal.

    These award-winning teachers, as well as the first and second runners up in each category, will go on to represent Africa at the sixth annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum on 26-29 October 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Held for the first time on the continent, the Worldwide Forum will host approximately 150 teachers from over 100 countries to share ideas and best practices with their peers.

    If last year’s Forum hosted in Brazil is anything to go by, we have a great deal of dialogue and debate about the most pressing issues in 21st century education to look forward to. More importantly, the educators involved have a great many solutions to share.