Posted by Dele Akinsade
Developer and Platform Evangelist Lead for Microsoft in West, East, Central Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands 

The growth of internet access and mobile penetration across Africa has resulted in a technology tipping point in terms of the opportunities available to business and consumers. Now is Africa’s time. The potential is tremendous, but making technology readily accessible and available – and continuing to fuel Africa’s culture of innovation around ICT – is essential to turning that potential into a true impact on economic growth in the region.

The need to create more spaces in which African technology professionals and enthusiasts are able to experience the latest-generation technologies first-hand, exchange ideas, and build skills birthed the idea for ‘Open Door’ – a series of events taking place across the continent aimed at highlighting the latest developments in ICT, but also the potential growth opportunities they offer.

Open Door is essentially a ‘technology showcase’ where we give African technology professionals and enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the latest generation of products and services from Microsoft and its partners. Open Door is literally just that: our doors are open to the public, our customers, partners, students and Government. The events typically last one or two days and are jam-packed with technology sessions, demonstrations and interactive feedback sessions.  

2011 is the second year we’ve hosted Open Door events in Africa and the feedback from customers, partners and consumers is that these types of events are needed to help drive technology adoption, and create a better understanding of what is available to consumers, businesses and Government alike – and perhaps most importantly, the growth opportunities they offer.

Open Door events provide attendees access to our latest consumer and business tools, including products such as Windows Phone 7, Kinect for Xbox 360 and the Lync communication platform. The events are hosted across the territories that Microsoft operates in, including Nigeria, West & Central Africa, East & Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. To date, over 1, 100 developers, customers and partners have attended events in Abidjan, Lagos, Abuja, Nairobi and Kigali. Further events are planned across the region in the near future. 

In Kenya and Rwanda alone almost 500 customers, partners and developers attended our events.   We also leveraged our Open Door event here to launch the Microsoft Virtual Academy, a fully cloud based online learning platform, designed to assist students in acquiring technologies and skills that would enhance their employability. 

What we weren’t expecting was the incredible level of energy and enthusiasm we received in feedback.  Partner, customer, but particularly student feedback showed us that Open Door and supporting programmes, such as the Virtual Academy, are what really resonate with the local populus.  George Mbuthia, a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology shared:

“It is a thrilling experience to study Microsoft technologies and advance my career. Earning points for downloading and studying materials and passing the self-assessment tests the program also keeps me motivated and encouraged, as I can constantly see my progress.”

Microsoft currently has over 250 employees in nine offices and more than 2,500 partners in the WECA & IOI region, each with thousands of employees. With Open Door, never before have so many leaders across the technology industry gathered together to share our product and services vision, and our extensive network is still growing!