Posted by Louis Otieno

General Manager, Microsoft East and Southern Africa

For nearly 20 years, Microsoft has worked hard to create a vast and diverse network of partners across Africa, helping to place technology at the heart of sustainable development. We see our role within the region as providing investment opportunities, whilst helping to improve Africa’s business and investment climate in order to attract and sustain higher levels of investment and enriching the lives of the African people. We are very proud of the work we do locally with our partners and believe strongly that the implementation and impact of our products and programmes, offers renewed growth and development within Africa.

I am pleased to say our partner, Virtual City, was recently awarded an Outstanding Regional Achievement Award at this year’s World Summit Award Mobile 2010 for their product Virtual City AgriManagr. The Outstanding Regional Achievement award celebrates creativity and innovation, which VirtualCity has in abundance.

With over 10 years’ experience Virtual City has been able to carve a position for itself as the market leader in the development, customization and implementation of innovative mobility solutions. Having been registered in the Microsoft Partner Network since August 2009, we have worked closely with them to provide tailor-made mobility solutions both in the local and international spheres.

Its winning solution, Virtual City AgriManagr was developed to help local farmers manage the weighing, grading and receipting of produce collected.  The system also allows farmers to pay suppliers using cashless transactions and track & reward their most loyal customers and suppliers. Built on Microsoft technologies, Virtual City AgriManagr can be used to accurately capture and deliver produce from the buying centre up until delivery to the factory.

The system works by weighing the farmer’s produce at the collection point using an electronic weighing scale and the information is sent directly using Bluetooth technology to the field agent's handheld device/ Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) specifying produce delivered, quality, quantity, farmer details, collection point, payment due etc. which is automatically sent to the headquarters using a secure VPN connection.

The farmer is supplied with a receipt at the collection point which gives information on month-to-date deliveries. This means the farmer has an accurate record of the deliveries they have made and can use information captured for trading, credit facilities, track their productivity etc. This process reduces turn-around time from collection to payments and gives the members of the supply chain accurate, real-time information while improving relationships and profitability.

At times it can be difficult for farmers in the region to manage the capture and delivery of their goods accurately. By automating this process, Virtual City AgriManagr increases efficiency while reducing fraud. The introduction of this new technology to farmers has led to an increase in efficiency and simplified business processes this has led to improved relations between the growers, buyers and the factories.

I invite you to join me in congratulating the team at Virtual City for a well deserved win. They work hard to innovate and create software technologies that improve the way Africa grows. This innovation has transformed life and opportunity for many people and we look forward to working with them again in the future and contributing to real change in Africa.