July, 2011

  • Guest post: An on-the-ground account of Team Quest-O’s experience at Imagine Cup 2011

    Posted by Lutalo Joseph Willrich (on behalf of the Team Quest-O)

    So we hacked like cats at little buttons and mice back in our school dorms many days ago (when no one knew us), and lo! Here we are speaking to the world about our exploits and achievements. It’s lovely, Imagine Cup I mean, amazing and truly a must-get-there moment for every tech student around the globe!

    Travelling to Imagine Cup was like programming: thrilling and engaging. The journey was the longest (30hrs approx.) and most exciting, being my first time to travel between-and-above the clouds! Unforgettable I must say.

    The feeling of finally breathing, walking, seeing and becoming a part of the awe called New York! Everything so big, everything shining and glittering in the unceasing sun –this was the first time I witnessed a day that starts at 5am and rocks on until 10pm! I remember waiting for night to fall, and the time on my computer kept screaming “It’s night! It’s night!” though the skies looked as daytime as ever! But I soon understood and adjusted. All in all, I was thrilled by the sheer scale of this city– I knew there was going to be lots of storytelling when I returned to the dusty streets of Kampala.

    From the moment I stepped onto the Academy bus that picked us off from JFK, I knew it was going to be first-class service, and Microsoft doesn’t disappoint I should tell you! I must admit that everything at the event was very well planned and executed to the very last dot - perfect! And I wouldn’t expect less of a firm that holds the dreams and respect of all these nerdy brains across the globe. Being my first Imagine Cup, this was all fantabulous, and I enjoyed it all. Not forgetting Liberty and the Ellis Island Barbeque!

    I can’t forget the speeches at the opening ceremony, especially the one from Ballmer himself, and the experience of presenting before world-class experts and media had its lasting impacts on me. Did I mention the lovely time at Central Park? That was the cream on the cake for me – painting a Malcolm-X mural with the two Winners of the Windows 7 Touch challenge for some lovely kids somewhere in the US! The painting itself might not have been so amazing, but the friends from France (I don’t know French by the way) and the fact that we both shared a passion about the concept portrayed in the mural made it so memorable for us all.

    I feel proud to have represented my small village town back at home, my Kampala City, Uganda and Africa as a whole – it’s surely an honor! And I say to my people back at home: though we didn’t bring home the Top Accolade, we are bringing home lots of experience and passion to change us all. Cheer up brothers and sisters. We are here because of you.

    And there have been some breathtaking and mind-awakening moments in the realm of the Nerd! This was my first time to witness the marvels of the ‘magic-turned-tech’ phenomenon called the Kinect. I loved the learning session from Coding4Fun.com. I hacked my first ever Kinect app in under 1 hour thanks to Microsoft and Dan Waters (awesome guy). I can’t forget the sessions on IE9 by Giorgio Sardo (he is going places!), and I loved the Windows Phone 7 session too.

    Crimex, our solution as Team Quest-O, which for those who don’t know is a response to the 8th MDG, Global Partnership, which is critical to creating– a Crime Free Society. It offers an affordable and effective solution for crunching crime data (from both the community and law enforcement), into useful and real-time applicable security tips and crime patterns for developing countries. We didn’t win, but we shall win for sure. The feedback is encouraging and positive. We have hope.

    All in all, Imagine Cup has been thrilling, challenging, and very fantabulous! I look forward to more in the coming years.

  • Microsoft’s Citizenship efforts in Africa acknowledged at 2011 African Business Awards

    Posted by Mteto Nyati and Hennie Loubser

    Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa and General Manager, Microsoft WECA respectively

    Since 1992, when we opened our first office in Africa, we have actively worked to help individuals, communities and nations across the continent thrive and grow. Fuelled by the incredible potential we see in Africa – from its young population, to its tremendous natural resources, to its opportunities for market growth, we’ve worked with passion to help enhance capacity for development, so that the continent can benefit from locally generated and sustainable development; and that Africa can realize her full potential.

    And so it was with great honour that on 23 June, we received recognition for our far-reaching effect on improving the lives of citizens in these regions at the fourth annual African Business Awards held in London, UK in the category for ‘Best Corporate Social Responsibility.’

    African Business Awards 2011Frank McCosker, General Manager, Global Strategic Accounts, received the award on behalf of Microsoft South Africa and WECA from Omar Ben Yedder, Managing Director of African Business

    Organised by African Business magazine, and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), the African Business Awards recognise business leaders and companies that have excelled in Africa over the last year. The ‘Best Corporate Social Responsibility’ award recognises the use of the human resources and skills of the company to sustainably improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations, and is aimed at ‘companies which go beyond the philanthropic use of funds to use their overall knowledge, resources and reputation to improve the lives of the poor and disadvantaged.’

    Microsoft was specifically awarded for its efforts in areas including:

    •    Youth Employability, where we’ve granted funds to the International Youth Foundation to provide technology, life skills, entrepreneurship, and marketable job skills training to 5,500 young people in Kenya and Tanzania. This program’s success has fueled interest and contributions from a range of other donors such as the British foreign aid agency, USAID, the World Bank, and Samsung;
    •    Community Technology Access, where we’ve partnered with the UN High Commission for Refugees and other private sector partners to launch computer literacy and vocational training courses for over 18,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in solar-powered computer classrooms in a camp in the Kiziba refugee camp in Rwanda.
    •    Teacher Training & Curriculum, by far one of Microsoft’s most established focus areas in the region, our targeted contribution to the South African education system specifically has focused on providing guidance and training to teachers in the use of technology, and support for school principals and their corresponding provinces and districts. We trained over 4000 teachers in the use of ICT, as well as constructed partnership agreements to ensure ongoing collaboration between corporates, government and NGOs and alignment of projects with plans of the South African Department of Basic Education.

    Receiving this accolade in the Corporate Social Responsibility category is a significant acknowledgement for Microsoft, where we align our African Citizenship programmes closely to the top priorities identified by the governments of the countries in which we operate, both to remain locally relevant and to make a real difference in the lives of people who need it the most.