April, 2013

  • Microsoft accelerates tech growth in Africa with Dev Camps

    Posted by Dele Akinsade
    Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands

    Developers are crucial to Africa’s digital development. Without local developers to rely on, Africa would struggle to gain ground in an increasingly digital global economy. And, they are important to our ecosystem in Africa because we rely on them to make our offerings locally relevant. For example, when Windows 8 was launched worldwide last year, African developers seized the opportunity to create new apps to address Africa’s unique opportunities and challenges.

    Developers at the Microsoft Kenya DevCamp (#MSKenCamp) earlier this year.To support the development of a vibrant, strong developer community in Africa, we hold frequent Microsoft DEV Camps across the continent. They are not only a great opportunity for developers to learn from experts and network with each other, but also to have valuable hands-on time to practically apply what they have learnt to an IT problem. What’s more, they are completely free!

    DEV Camps are an important part of our commitment to Africa. The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, launched in February 2013, is built on the belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and that Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. We know that African developers not only have the potential to solve local challenges, but to solve global ones too, and this is why we’re increasing our investments even further in reaching out to African developers.

    So don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of Microsoft developers’ community by participating in one of the upcoming Microsoft DEV Camps in Africa, taking place in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya in 2013. If you are unable to attend any of the Camps, you can start perfecting your development skills through our array of online resources:

    DreamSpark provides students with software design and development tools at no charge.

    Microsoft Virtual Academy provides free online IT training & learning of Windows, Microsoft Technologies through courses designed by industry experts.

    Channel 9 keeps you up to date with videos from people behind the scenes building products at Microsoft.

    Microsoft Learning provides online computer training, and online computer certification for all Microsoft technology products, courses, and exams.

    BizSpark provides free software, support, visibility, and community to promising start-ups and visionary entrepreneurs.

    For details on upcoming DEV Camps in your region, you can follow these Facebook pages and groups: Microsoft Africa; Africa Apps, Microsoft DPE WCA, DPE Nigeria, DPE Indian OceanIslands, and DPE East and Southern

    You can also follow @MicrosoftAfrica and @AfricaApps onTwitter.

  • Supporting Africa’s culture of innovation for a better tomorrow

    Posted by Robert Kayihura, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Today, we are celebrating World Intellectual Property Day, a global event that brings attention to the importance of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity. This year’s theme is ‘Creativity: The Next Generation”.

    This got me thinking –when we look at the next generation in Africa, what do we need to do to ensure they are able to be as creative as they possibly can be in solving future challenges?

    Finding creativity in Africa certainly isn’t the challenge. Like anywhere in the world, people across the continent have been coming up with creative solutions to everyday challenges for centuries. People are naturally innovative and in Africa this is particularly evident when you look at the informal sector, where people have found extremely creative ways of making a living and addressing local needs and challenges.

    New skills needed to use new tools

    However, thanks to technology, there is far more potential to solve what were previously considered unsolvable problems. Think about all the breakthroughs we’ve seen in healthcare in the last decade. Yet, while information technology (IT) is more ubiquitous and continues to advance; the disconnect between the people who experience certain challenges and those that have the ability to solve them is widening. So while there may be an app for almost every purpose in the world; most people in Africa don’t own smartphones, and those that have challenges that could potentially be solved using IT also don’t have the means or in many cases the know-how to create relevant apps.  

    Local solutions to local challenges

    This is why we are so passionate about supporting local developers, entrepreneurs and startups on the continent, and about ensuring the next generation has the skills and tools needed to empower themselves and contribute positively to society.

    The realization of how important it is to support innovation in Africa is largely what has informed our recently launched 4Afrika Initiative. We started noticing through our work across the continent that a huge number of young people were really set on coming up with their own solutions to local challenges. While many of them succeeded without any help, these encouraging trends confirm what we’ve observed in other parts of the world – the most effective way to solve challenges in Africa, is to support the continent’s young people, aspiring entrepreneurs, and the regions small and midsize businesses by helping them access the devices and IT services they need to do the ‘problem-solving’. After all, this is a far more sustainable approach!

    The missing ingredient

    But there is one thing missing from this mix that is necessary to support a strong culture of innovation: a widespread understanding of the concept of intellectual property (IP), and a respect for the protection of ideas.

    Last month in Tanzania African Ministers gathered to discuss the role of innovation as a driving force of social, economic, and environmental development. Countries that are highly innovative have greater development potential, and the protection of IP is central to ensuring the link between the two.

    Recently I wrote about how important IP is to start-ups, and how strong IP legislation can really make all the difference when it comes to attracting investors. As I noted, inventions protected by patents are worth on average 200% more than unprotected inventions. For African entrepreneurs to have the chance to take their ideas to market and compete against global companies, they must have the assurance that all their hard work will not be stolen from them.

    So this World IP Day, I urge you to consider the place innovation has in your life and in the future success of Africa – and to spread the word about how important it is for us to collectively support the culture of innovation that is already rooted in our history.

  • Intellectual Property: An Idea Worth Copying

    Posted by Robert Kayihura, Director of Legal & Corporate Affairs, West, East, Central Africa (WECA), Microsoft

    Imagine you’re in charge of a multinational organization. Some of you may be already, but most of us aren’t that lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view). But imagine that you are the CEO of ‘You Corp’. You and your board want to expand your business into different countries and sell your product to new customers. What three things should you look for in order to ensure your business takes off?

    First, you’re looking for demand. If your company is not offering something that customers want, you may need to rethink your plans. Let’s assume You Corp’s product is the best in its category and something a lot of consumers want to own.

    Second, you need a supply chain. You’ll be importing your goods at first (maybe forever), and you need assurance that your new market or region has a transportation network and customs infrastructure that can support truck-loads of your product coming in and landing on store shelves in good time.

    For some, the third factor may come as a surprise: make sure your intellectual property (IP) will be protected. IP is essential for business success, regardless of product or geography. IP protection safeguards four very important assets: patents (your inventions); trademarks (the symbols and other designs that distinguish your product or company); trade secrets (the confidential business intelligence that gives your company a competitive advantage); and copyrights (works of authorship that lead to successful books, films, music and other creative expressions).

    ‘But IP merely funnels riches to the already-rich!’

    Not so. The protection of IP is as important to start-up companies as it is to large and wealthy multinational organizations. IP protection is what gives small and start-up ventures the confidence to compete against more established firms; it offers the assurance that their investment of time, effort and money will be protected and ultimately rewarded with the growth and success they deserve. In fact, when it comes to start-up companies, their entire value is often based on their IP, and attracting funding is dependent on how well that IP is protected. This makes IP a primary factor in attracting outside investment - and that, after all, is an important way to stimulate national and regional economies not just in Africa, but across the world.

    The importance of IP to economic development 

    It is well established that inventions protected by patents are worth on average 200% more than unprotected inventions. This doesn’t just mean more profit, it means more start-up capital, new and high paying jobs and services, and the creation of new industries. In turn, this all leads to increased economic growth and development which ultimately benefits society as a whole.

    At the end of the day, IP protection is about fair competition. With a fair and level playing field, talented individuals, as well as small and mid-sized companies across Africa, will not only compete successfully against wealthy and more established multi-national companies, they will create jobs, improve people’s lives and help transform the region.   

  • Get behind African developers for Imagine Cup 2013

    Posted by Dele Akinsade
    Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands

    It’s that time of the year again:2012 Grant Award winners: Team Cipher256, Uganda. Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello, Dr. Davis Musinguzi, Josiah Kavuma and Joseph Kaizzi the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition season is in full swing, with local finals taking place across the continent.  The competition brings together student innovators from every corner of the globe to showcase their great ideas for new apps -- and this year the competition is stiffer than ever.

    The winning prize pot is a life-changing USD $300,000 – enough to encourage any student developer to put their head down and do some serious coding! But, as clichéd as it might sound, winning isn’t everything at Imagine Cup. The experience of presenting to a panel of expert judges, taking your idea from concept to marketplace, networking with like-minded developers from across the world, and of course, all the fun that’s to be had – is a once in a lifetime, life-changing experience. 

    As always, I’m most excited to see what innovations come out of Africa, and which teams make it through to the Worldwide Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia this July. Last year, teams from Egypt and Algeria won awards and Team Cipher256 from Uganda won a Grant Award for WinSenga – a handheld device that can scan a pregnant woman’s womb to monitor baby movements and detect ectopic pregnancy or abnormal foetal heartbeats. This innovation addresses a local challenge in Uganda – lack of access to affordable antenatal care. But it also has the potential to be used in many countries in Africa, and other parts of the world. This is exactly the kind of ‘exchange’
    that we referred to when we launched the 4Afrika Initiative, which is built on the belief that “technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world”. And while Team Cipher256 didn’t walk away with a prize at the finals, they received $50 000 through the Grant Award program, which is driven by Microsoft YouthSpark, an initiative that aims to help young people pursue an education, find employment, and foster entrepreneurship.

    I urge all African students to envisage new ways of using technology to tackle the challenges that Africa – and the world- faces. You never know, next year you could be flown to an exciting location to be a part of the 2014 Worldwide Finals! And don’t forget to stay tuned to the Microsoft Africa Facebook page and @MicrosoftAfrica Twitter handle for updates on the African teams competing at this year’s

  • African women: breaking down the barriers of entry to the tech industry

    Posted by Djam Bakhshandegi
    Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning West East Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands 

    Empowering women through education and technology is essential to the economic development of any country. In Africa, the gap between the educated population and the one that has never had the opportunity to go to school is even bigger than in other parts of the world; a difference that is exacerbated when we look at the statistics solely for the female population. Moreover, access to technology in Africa has been limited to the rich for years – a trend that is now starting to change.

    When it comes to education in Africa, there is still much room for improvement. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of women in Africa do not have access to basic education. However, the encouragement of African women to chase education in the technology sector has increased in the last years and is opening greater possibilities of bridging the gap between those who have access to opportunities and those who don’t.

     Considering technology as an important factor for the achievement of growth in Africa, there is a general awareness in the continent that women need to be educated in this field. In this sense, the UNESCO report  Science, Technology and Gender identifies that the number of women employed in the scientific and tech industries is increasing in several African countries.

    Numerous organisations and foundations are starting new initiatives in Africa with the aim of improving life for women, and contributing to the development of the continent through technology and science. Microsoft is supporting this through its DigiGirlz programme, which is designed to give high-school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. Every year, the DigiGirlz programme reaches over 500 young high-school girls across the continent. Often, these sessions signal new opportunities awakening in the young women’s minds. They are able to see, hear, and understand what education and technology has brought to others and what it can potentially bring to them.   And, we also recently launched Aspire Women, the official name of the female empowerment portal first disclosed as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative launch in February 2013. It is an official collaboration between Microsoft Egypt, the 4Afrika Initiative and YouthSpark and is designed to empower young women to play a leadership role in their communities, build their skills and self-esteem, and introduce new models for self-employment.

    If you’d like to learn more, please explore the links above and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.