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By Attilla Szenvedi, Marketing and Operations Director, WECA and IOI
Technology is changing the world and has transformed the way people work and play forever. The term ‘global village’ has become popular to describe how friends, family and businesses spread out across countries and continents are able to communicate effectively and close the physical gap between them with the aid of technology. Africa currently has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers and over 167 million internet users, and these numbers will grow dramatically over the next few years. African smartphone penetration is also predicted to increase to 17% in 2017, according to Analysis Mason, and this will further drive internet adoption.
The interconnectivity explosion and innovation of new devices, has created a world where people can connect and do business anytime, anywhere. Businesses are taking advantage of new technologies to become more flexible, agile, and penetrate previously inaccessible markets and borders. And having the right operating system in place is critical to support a new, and better way of doing things.
Windows 8, which has just sold over 100 million licences, is designed for mobility and connectivity, making it the perfect platform across all devices. With a touch screen interface it operates seamlessly on tablets and smartphones, but is just as exciting for traditional PCs operated by a keyboard and mouse.
In addition to enhanced security and reliability, it has a super speedy boot time, operates ten times faster than XP, and saves power and battery consumption by over 20%. A colourful, customisable dashboard, and intuitive swipe gestures, gives Windows 8 a ‘cool’ edge. There are over 60 000 Windows apps already available and Microsoft is investing heavily through our DevCamps, AppFactory, and Imagine Cup initiatives, in a generation of African developers with the skills and expertise to increase Windows 8’s local offerings.
When it comes to technology, our continent is abuzz with excitement! So join the party and download Windows 8 now.
So, here are some of my favourite features to get you started.
Alethea Lodge, Public-Private Partnerships Manager, International Organizations, Microsoft
Science + technology + engineering + mathematics = STEM, a key driver of progress and economic growth around the world. However, in both developed and developing countries, women are highly underrepresented in these fields, meaning that STEM is also critical to women empowerment. When it comes to the ICT sector, for example, only 18% of computer science degrees in the United States are earned by women. In African countries the representation is similar, with women making up only 15% of the ICT workforce in Kenya and 18% in South Africa.
But a new generation of ‘girl geeks’ are making a real mark on the technology sector and propelling the economic growth of their countries forward, like Senegalese, Mariéme Jamme, CEO of IT organization, SpotOne and co-founder of Africa Gathering, the first global platform bringing together entrepreneurs and others to share ideas about development in Africa. Although female role models are changing perceptions about women in ICT, most still face barriers to entry and have not yet been able to take advantage of the immense opportunities provided by technology.
Microsoft is a firm supporter of women in the STEM fields and we are part of several partnerships and initiatives to enhance access. As part of our 4Afrika Initiative we launched Aspire Women, a series of events designed to empower over 3000 young women to play a leadership role in their communities, build their IT skills and self-esteem, and introduce new models for self-employment. Last month, 100 young women from all over Egypt participated in an Aspire Women workshop and learned general computer skills and how IT can help in running a business. The country is one of many in Africa where women perceive a STEM career as unattainable but the technology skills acquired at the workshop will help them secure better jobs, build successful businesses, and have an impact on their personal lives and communities. Exposure to technology should happen at a young age, which is why we also have our YouthSpark’s DigiGirlz program to inspire high school girls to pursue STEM subjects by providing them with the opportunity to interact with Microsoft employees and receive computer and technology training.
Mobile technology in particular is having real impact on economies and development, and on the 20th June I was fortunate to attend the ScientificMobile Learning workshop in Nsukka, with our longstanding partner, UNESCO, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the University of Nigeria. The workshop uncovered how technology can be a catalyst for empowering women, and in turn, enables them to have a greater impact on economic and social development and pedagogies for teaching girls STEM in the classroom. On the agenda was the recently released white paper, Girls in STEM and ICT Careers: The Path toward Gender Equality. Sponsored by Microsoft in conjunction with UNESCO, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UN Women, the whitepaper pinpoints solutions to the global challenge of increasing the number of girls interested in STEM subjects.
The solutions include four focus areas:
- Combatting stereotypes about women and girls in science
- Making IT relevant to their lives
- Women empowerment
- Improving access by overcoming the issue of skills availability and development
This is no quick fix, but if academia, private enterprise, government and NGOs all work together to change cultural perceptions and provide ample and inspirational learning opportunities, we should start to see women finally represented more equally in such critical academic and professional fields.
Mteto Nyati, Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa
Africa is big, really big. In terms of land mass, China, India, the USA and most of Western Europe could all easily fit within its footprint. This size presents its own problems, not the least of which is the difficulty of connecting people to the Internet. The usual copper and fiber combination often doesn’t cut it, especially in rural areas where more than 60 percent of the population resides.
To bridge the divide, we been working to deploy affordable broadband services using white space technology (unused TV frequencies). Having launched pilots in Kenya and Tanzania under the 4Afrika Initiative – and in the UK and Singapore, we are excited to be bringing this technology to South Africa. Five secondary schools in remote parts of the Limpopo province will now benefit from the combination of low-cost wireless broadband, plus great Windows devices and relevant services for education.
Around 28 percent of South Africa’s 50 million people are online, according to the latest report published by the Digital Media and Marketing Association and Echo Consultancy, and South Africa’s minister for science and technology, Derek Hanekom, has set a target of getting 80 percent connected by 2020. Achieving this goal would enable many more in South Africa to take advantage of the burgeoning digital economy. Through this pilot and other efforts, we at Microsoft are deeply committed to helping the government succeed in this important effort.
Education is fundamental to the economic development of any country, and it is education that stands to gain the most from this particular white spaces project. Using the University of Limpopo as a hub for a new white space network which is delivered through solar-powered base stations, the project will also provide each of the five schools with Windows tablets, projectors, teacher laptops and training, solar panels for device re-charging, and education-related content.
In Singapore last month, Microsoft – as a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance – was advocating laws and regulations that promote better use of spectrum frequencies. The results so far are a testament to the power of the Internet, while the 4Afrika Initiative shows that intelligent use of unused spectrum frequencies can help connect the unconnected.
Of course technology access creates enormous potential, but we believe it’s this end-to-end package of access plus devices and services which enables true advancement and economic development. This is why we launched 4Afrika, an initiative designed to empower and educate African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond. Starting here in Limpopo, we are looking forward to working with South Africa to bring more and more of our own online.