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Guest blog post by Lindsay Pointu, e-Inclusion Foundation
We live in a fast-paced digital era where new technology comes into play every day. For any organisation to flourish, it is essential that it incorporates this technology into its workings to improve productivity and efficiency – and NGO’s are no exception.
NGO’s in Mauritius play an important role in the country, and multiple organisations across a broad range of sectors assist with crucial services and continuous development of the island nation. So it is imperative that these organisations have access to technology, as well as the relevant skills they need to operate effectively and have maximum impact in the work they do.
With this in mind, Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika volunteer program, part of the 4Afrika Initiative, recently partnered with the e-Inclusion Foundation and the University of Mauritius to train NGO representatives to build their IT skills. MySkills4Afrika offers world-class skills for Africans and fosters global leadership and career development for volunteers to assist in the skills development of graduates and startups across all industries, schools, universities and the public sector. The E-Inclusion Foundation’s aim is to facilitate access to ICT tools and training for those at the margin of digital society, and it has distributed to date some 5,200 PC’s, 2,500 of which went to NGO’s. The 4Afrika Initiative is constantly looking for ways to invest in Africa’s promise and explore new avenues to accelerate growth across the continent. Helping NGO’s by providing training is an ideal way of working towards achieving both these goals.
MySkills4Afrika volunteer, Omar Rahmouni, conducted a workshop over two days, focusing on training the 58 participants from 23 different Mauritian NGO’S in the optimal use of Microsoft’s productivity tools. The training was conducted in one of the IT labs made available by the University of Mauritius – a telling illustration of University’s commitment to the community and of their willingness to partner with the Private Sector.
Naveesha Bhirugnath, who attended the workshop on behalf of the Global Rainbow Foundation – a charitable trust that supports people with disabilities – felt the training helped her to brush up her skills and discover new ways to work more effectively. “I have used Microsoft Office before, but now I understand how to use it more effectively, especially for my presentations. I also learned about Microsoft Publisher for the first time, which is really helpful for making brochures.”
Caritas Mauritius is a volunteer- and community-based organisation that aims to rehabilitate the poor and oppressed in the country, and has more than 20 projects on the go throughout the island. The NGO’s Secretary General, Patricia Adele Felicite, said the training gave her ideas about how to improve her organisation’s work. “Up until now we have mostly stuck to the basics, but I’ve learned how useful Excel can be for monitoring, analysing and evaluating our projects. It is also helpful to know how to maximise our use of PowerPoint and Outlook.”
Both Naveesha and Patricia are eager to share what they learned with their colleagues and implement their learnings in their organisations. They, along with the other participants, have also committed to completing the e-Inclusion Foundation’s Digital Learning Curriculum to further their IT skills development.
Lindsay Pointu of e-Inclusion commented that what was clear from this training workshop was that while many Mauritian NGO’s are making use of technology in their daily operations – a great step in the right direction – many are not optimising their tools. “In fact, the e-Inclusion Foundation has supplied PCs to 300 NGO’s, but the majority haven’t had any training, and certainly none targeted specifically at them.” A NGO Day – the second such event in this country – with the participation of all NGO’s is planned for later this year.
The participating NGO’s share the belief that being exposed to this type of training will help them better service their communities – which in turn has the potential to help the African continent grow. Lindsay concluded, “Being skilled in working with constantly developing technology will help these NGO’s stay ahead of the curve, not only locally, but globally too.”
With this in mind, it is imperative for NGO’s like those who participated in the workshop to seek training and upskill in order to be part of a forward-thinking African community.
By Dele Akinsade, Server and Tools Business Group Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa
It has been over ten years since Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003, and it’s been a decade of significant change. SMEs now have capabilities previously reserved for only large enterprises, thanks to cheaper hardware, smaller devices and cloud solutions. The way we work has also changed with the growth of mobile. And yet despite this, many companies are still using outdated technology.
With this in mind, Microsoft is completely ending our support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 on the 14th of July 2015, following the end of mainstream support in July 2010. This is part of our support lifecycle in place to encourage our users to migrate to one of our latest solutions and take advantage of modern technology for compliance, hybrid cloud infrastructure and innovative applications.
So, what does the end of support for Windows Server 2003 mean?
After the 14th of July, Microsoft will no longer develop or release any updates, which can increase security risk, result in slower performance and cause potential down time of business applications. The costs of maintaining your legacy servers can also add up quickly, while your business will likely fail to meet most industry-wide compliance standards and regulations, which increases the risk for your daily business transactions.
There’s no need to panic, though – because with change comes opportunity. Many companies who have migrated are already reaping the benefits of the new operating system. “With Windows Server 2012 R2, we can ensure the integrity and modernity of our IT infrstructure; it protects our operations and our customers’ data, and it also gives our infrastructure the ability to evolve, thus ensuring our competitiveness and making sure we benefit fully from the advantages of the cloud”, says Misa Ratovaoarison, IT Manager at Filatex, a Malagasy group specialised in real estate.
Apart from ensuring that your servers remain protected with continued security updates and patches, migrating from Windows Server 2003 could signal the beginning of a new stage for your business, giving you new capabilities no matter how big or small your operations are. A cloud platform like Azure, for example, provides you with a range of benefits, including increased backup capacity, enhanced disaster recovery capabilities, consistent compliance with regulatory demands and access to the most modern applications. In addition, it reduces server sprawl and boosts employee productivity by allowing them to work from wherever they are. All these features can help your business move faster, reduce costs and ultimately be more productive.
Compliance with key industry regulations and standards is a key reason many of customers have taken their migration from Windows Server 2003 seriously. Yan Ng, executive director at Intercontinental Trust Limited (ITL), a leading Management Company operating in the global business sector in Mauritius, says “It is also important to highlight that this implementation is compliant with our ISAE 3402 Type II certification”.
The path to migration
Of course, as you begin the migration process, you need to ask yourself what solution makes the most sense for your business. You have a few months before Windows Server 2003 support ends, so take a moment and use one of our tools to discover what applications and software you have running on the outdated technology. Then create a transition plan to make your migration process as smooth as possible, and choose where you would like to move your current workloads and applications – whether to a new server like Windows Server 2012 (R2) or to a cloud platform like Microsoft Azure. Finally, there are several vendors that offer do-it-yourself tools to assist with the migration, such as Dell ChangeBASE, Citrix AppDNA, AppZero, Refresh IT, BlueStripe and Microsoft Services JumpStart for Windows Server 2003.
We are pleased to say that our partners support our move away from Windows Server 2003, understanding the importance of making use of the latest technology. Hasmukh Chudasama, Practice Lead – End User Computing at Dimension Data East Africa, comments: “By helping our mutual customers make the transition, Dimension Data is opening the doors for them to protect their environments, use virtualisation to reduce server sprawl, take advantage of hybrid and public cloud options for their application and reduce IT burden with Office 365 and other services.”
Thanks to new technology, it’s an exciting time for SMEs. That’s because many are finding that increased access to new technology—such as cloud and mobile solutions—can provide access to services that were never within their reach before, helping them grow and be more productive.
So if you have been using Windows Server 2003 and haven’t yet begun migration planning, now is the time. We have a range of options to suit your needs, including the new Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and other hosting partners. For advice and assistance, we also have tools and guidance available to help you during the migration process, and our partners are there to assist you along the way.
by Djam Bakhshandegi, Corporate Social Investment Lead Microsoft West, East,Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
Exposing African girls to the possibilities within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and driving a greater female workforce to these industries is an essential element for developing economies across the continent.
With this in mind, Microsoft YouthSpark, in partnership with I Choose Life Africa, Craft Silicon Foundation and Techno Brain Limited, held the fourth ICT Day for girls in Kenya last month on 7 March, attracting 218 high school girls from 11 schools.
The event, known as DigiGirlz, was made up of a series of mentorship sessions led by female Microsoft employees as part of our Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) and targeted girls who are enrolled in computer studies and are high achievers at their schools. This year, the mentors at DigiGirlz included Tonia Kariuki, Marketing Director for Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative; Wambui Mbeca, Country Director Techno Brain Kenya; Elssy Makena, Microsoft Student Partner and STEM student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology (JKUAT); and Dr Susan Musyoka, Machakos County Women Representative (Member of Parliament, Kenya National Assembly). The girls had the opportunity to engage with these women while learning about careers in technology, gaining career planning advice and enjoying hands-on computer and technology training.
Mariam Abdullani, General Manager for East Africa Microsoft Mobile Device Sales, says programs like DigiGirlz help to reduce the wide gender imbalance that exists in these trades. “It is our hope as the women of Microsoft that through this event girls will be motivated to not only take up careers in the ICT sector in a futuristic approach, but also use the skills gained from the hands-on training and mentorship session to create solutions that can resolve the issues in their immediate environments using technology.”
Carol Ngugi, Co-ordinator for the Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship Portal at Microsoft, believes that there has been a great shift in mindset in the girls attending DigiGirlz. No longer are STEM subjects seen as reserved for boys. She adds, “This year’s DigiGirlz was special because it was the first time it was held outside of Nairobi – at Misyani Girls in Machakos County – which is exciting because this gives girls even in remote areas the opportunity to explore STEM careers and make an impact on their society.”
Although the workshops were primarily aimed at students, there was also an opportunity for teachers to be part of the event, in a session on using technology in teaching. This workshop gave the teachers learning tools and encouraged them to engage in technology programs throughout the school year, so that the girls who attended DigiGirlz, along with their peers, can continue to be exposed to technology in the classroom. The girls also exchanged contact details with their mentors to engage with them in the future.
Our partners put the impact of mentorship programs like DigiGirlz best. Mike Mutungi, CEO of I Choose Life – Africa, says: “This partnership brings together mentorship models that will inspire the girls to remain in school to pursue their ambitions, directly impacting the student’s learning, enrolment, attendance and performance.”
Priya Budhabhatti, CEO of Craft Silicon Foundation, adds: “Firstly education is important for all, as it puts everyone on an equal footing regardless of your background and gives you a competitive edge. Secondly, as women, we need to have financial stability and acquire some form of financial means as it is prudent for us to be self-sufficient. Lastly, I encourage women to pursue fields which were long ago male dominated, because as women we must believe we are gifted, capable and have contributions to make in society.”
The DigiGirlz program has grown from strength to strength over the years, and its impact on the lives of these young women is undeniable. The girls who attended this year’s workshops commented, “The session was excellent. It has helped and assisted us in improving our skills in science, technology and other life skills.” They added, “We have learnt a lot about how to create apps and gained general knowledge that we are going to use to develop ICT solutions for our communities.”
This highlights the real impact DigiGirlz can have on the girls who attend, as well as their communities. We call on teachers, leaders, captains of industry and other ambitious young women to get involved in the program and grow STEM capabilities among African women.
Read more about Microsoft’s DigiGirlz programs here.
Posted by Editorial Team
In the spirit of International Women’s Day earlier this month, we are putting the spotlight on some of our inspiring women in tech at Microsoft. Global Sales Strategy Lead, Mobile and Windows Ads In Apps, Sharon Harris, is one of our leading ladies. She shares her passion for technology that can add value to our lives, and encourages women to bring their unique perspective to the ICT industry and act as role models for other women.
What attracted you to the ICT industry? I was attracted to the ICT industry not because I am a geek or have a background in technology. What attracted me was the way in which technology can have an impact on people’s lives in very simple and meaningful ways. I was first introduced to the tech sector while working at an investment firm dealing in tech stocks. I quickly learned about the various new start-ups and technologies coming to market. I became fascinated with a company that was launching a satellite radio service. Not because it would beam commercial free music to your car, but because I love music and now would have access to over 100 channels of music in every genre possible. Technology was going to bring me something that I couldn’t do as easily without it and add value to my life through something I loved – music. My relationship with technology has always been about making it invisible and placing the needs, wants and dreams of people first. My 12-year passion for mobile has stemmed from seeing how easy and effective communication, knowledge sharing and access to information can be made through a mobile device. Tasks once reserved for technology ‘geeks’ now enable us to live our lives in new, often more productive and definitely fun ways.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry? Women bring a unique perspective to technology that keeps it focused on the value to the user rather than on the bits and bots. Our sense of design and ease of use have been invaluable in bringing certain technologies to market. Women often illuminate new uses for technology that are sometimes overlooked. I love participating in an industry that will have such an impact on the world for good.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry? There are not as many women in ICT as I would like. Often it can be challenging to find role models. For a woman of colour it is even more difficult to find role models and mentors. Often women are viewed as inferior or less capable of running technology projects. I have used those doubters to motivate me and challenge me to do things I didn’t think I could do. As a woman in technology, I have made it my personal goal to mentor other women and provide support in the journey. The only way there will be more women in technology is if there are more women in technology.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects? The next global economy will be driven by technology. Having a solid foundation in STEM will be critical in securing opportunities and having financial independence. Women are increasingly the bread-winners or one of two very vital incomes in the household. Careers in technology will open new doors and present the most opportunities in the future as we move to an Internet of Things world.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance? I don’t believe there is a balance, honestly. I think we make trade-offs and need to prioritise what is most important at the time. There will be times when work is the priority and times when family, hobbies and ourselves are the priority. Having a strong support system is key, as is making the choices that allow you the most flexibility. It is never perfect and we have to make tough decisions at times. The scales will always tip back and forth and we have to manage this carefully when it happens and make sure our managers, co-workers and colleagues are aware of what our needs may be at the time. Microsoft is an amazing company because we are afforded a great level of work flexibility whether through working remotely or shifting our hours to accommodate our family needs or personal passions.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT? Find your passion in ICT whether it is programming, marketing, sales or something else. Learn the industry and be prepared for change. Most importantly seek out role models and mentors who can help you along the way. Find supporters who can provide insight into the roles or positions that interest you. Be diligent and take a risk even if you don’t feel like you have 100% of the qualifications. No experience is ever wasted. Learning is a life long journey.
Posted by Warren H. A. La Fleur, Regional Manager, Education Industry for Microsoft West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
Across the African continent, growing evidence suggests that learning by using technology is essential to deliver good academic results and to supply a tech savvy work force pool, according to The eLearning Africa Report 2014. Up to date, educational institutions in 18 different African countries have introduced new ways of ensuring learners and students become more ICT-literate to guarantee these job seekers have equal access to tomorrow’s sough-after careers world-wide – an imperative in today’s market, where worldwide youth unemployment is continuing to rise.
With that said, and against a backdrop of ever increasing availability of broadband in Africa, eligible students and teachers in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe can now get Office 356 ProPlus (formerly known as Student Advantage) which lets students and teachers install free Office when their academic institution are signed up. This brings an affordable productivity solution to students to collaborate online and to have access to email and 1 Terabyte of cloud storage, today.
Recent studies found that today’s education system is not adequately preparing students for the jobs of the future. In fact, IDC research commissioned by Microsoft found that this skills gap could be closed by focusing on communications, knowledge integration and presentation skills; combined with a solid competence in the Microsoft Office tools that facilitate 21st century work. And in a tight job market, having the right skills means a better chance at securing that dream job.
Moreover, academic institutions on the continent are dealing with shrinking budgets against growing requirements. We listened to those challenges. So when schools and tertiary institutions allow Microsoft to host collaboration and communication services, schools directly benefit from the latest world-class and secure technology while reducing costs.
Students on the other hand have quick and easy access to Microsoft’s familiar and secure collaboration tools from anywhere, and on any device by signing up using their school-specific email address. By familiarising themselves with these tools while studying puts them ahead of the digital pack when it’s time to enter the tech-heavy workplace. It is here where they are often required to know their way around tools such as Outlook, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Lync and are expected to have good presentation skills and collaborate effectively with colleagues.
According to the IDC data, the only software package called out within the top 20 skills in demand across all occupations is Microsoft Office. High-growth, high-salary occupations of the future consistently require a high level of competence in communication, knowledge integration and presentation skills. And many 21st century employers specifically require Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office-related skills.
With tools like Lync, they can seamlessly collaborate with students in classrooms around the world. And with OneNote, students can keep class notes, photos, and important information in one, easy-to-find location that’s available on all of their devices (PCs, Macs, Windows Phone, iPhones, iPads, Android Phones, Android Tablets) and now even wearables. Students can type directly into their notebooks, capture and convert photos of whiteboards and handouts, even record meetings or voice memos, and they’re all available from any device with a simple search. Using their Office 365 ID also means they can access the same Office content while on the go with the mobile apps on Windows Phone, iPhones and Android Phones.
In order to provide a historically familiar technology tool to students at no additional cost, an education institution needs to have an Office 365 ProPlus license in place for its staff and faculty. Institutions in these 18 African countries wishing to participate are encouraged to sign up for an academic agreement via a local Microsoft partner.
Through the YouthSpark initiative, we have to date provided education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for more than 227 million young people in more than 100 countries around the world since 2012, with plans to reach 300 million across the three year initiative.
To check your eligibility and learn more about Office 365 ProPlus go to office.com/getoffice365. For more information on the benefits of Office in education visit Microsoft in Education. Students can also explore additional deals and resources Microsoft has to offer specifically for them on the Microsoft Student Page.
Posted by the Editorial Team
In the spirit of International Women's Day on 8 March, we are speaking to some of the inspirational women at Microsoft. Somtochukwu Ochuba is one of our Microsoft Academy of College Hires (MACH) interns in Nigeria. Having attended a 4Afrika-approved partner university, she is seizing the opportunity to be part of our intensive 12-month internship armed with a passion for technology. What excites her most about the ICT industry is its dynamic nature, and she feels women have a unique set of skills they can offer in this space.
What attracted you to the ICT industry?
I really can't say a particular thing or event attracted me to the ICT industry. I guess I was lucky to be alive at a pivotal time in history, when the internet was fairly new and the desktop computer was gradually trickling into people's homes. The attraction grew from my love for new challenges, so I was naturally drawn to the unknown and the excitement of deciphering this new "myth". I got hooked - it was dynamic and there was always something new to learn or do. I can also see how it impacts the lives of people around me and that puts a smile on my face.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
It's different, it's cool. That's the easy answer. But putting things in perspective, more women are getting interested and involved in the ICT industry and we must recognise the role that diversity has to play in the development and success of any generation. We all have a role to play in guaranteeing a better future for the next generation and I would be delighted if young girls see the women in ICT today as role models and are encouraged to be more interested and pursue a career in the technology industry.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
Let's face facts, it's an industry that is predominantly dominated by men, for whatever reason. This goes some way in women's abilities being more deeply scrutinised than her male counterparts. So I think it takes much more for us to prove ourselves. Once you get past that, I have found that women excel, in some cases, above their male counterparts, because we have a unique set of skills that we bring to the table.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
I believe people should be allowed to do whatever it is they truly love to do. This can only happen if society doesn't set boundaries of what a person can achieve, just because they are a certain sex. When I was choosing a career, I was told that it wasn't a field that favoured women-folk, that it wasn't "lady-like" and that being a nurse was more befitting of a woman. But I'm glad that I was able to stick with what I love to do, and it has paid off. It's important that more women pursue STEM subjects because we bring to the table a lot that's lacking today. I think we are the key to unlocking the full potential of the future for the next generation. We are the piece that's missing.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
With the new "work from anywhere" world we live in today, I like to think of it as just life. I don't yet have a family of my own so I may not be able to give a very well-informed opinion on this topic, but speaking in general terms, women are deemed to have more responsibilities in the home than men and that is why this new way of thinking favours us. It makes it easier to be fully involved with family, work and hobbies with a very healthy balance.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
My advice would be "go for it!" It is really that simple. It's a fast growing industry, and it's getting even bigger and much more exciting every day. There's no limit to what you can achieve.
By Dele Akinsade, Server and Tools Business Group Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa
Those of you who move in IT circles might have heard of Microsoft Azure. But it’s not just for the IT savvy – in fact, Azure is the perfect cloud-based platform for any business owner, small or large.
If your business makes use of Mission Critical solutions and Datacenter redundancy you will know how much data you need to store. Instead of having to use a bulky server box in a fancy server room, Azure allows you to store your many gigabytes of data in a secure, yet easily accessible online environment in the cloud. It also has a built-in BI solution to organise your data and conduct market research – so you know exactly where to find the files you need, while simultaneously gaining important business insights.
Once you have these insights, it’s simple to put them to use because Azure allows you to develop applications on any platform, in any code, including mobile applications. In modern business, applications can be a great way to improve efficiency, or may even be at the heart of your business model – for example as a means for your customers to pay online. In Uganda, access. mobile has used this functionality to develop an app called Clinic Communicator, which stores patient data and sends automatic updates to their phones, reminding them when to take medication or come back for a check-up. Another African app called Agrilife an agricultural solution designed to provide a credit and training facility for over 135k farmers across Africa using SMS services.
An online presence is also a must for modern business, as complicated as this can be to set up. Azure removes the complication, offering website development and hosting, and taking care of considerations like which operating system to use, as well as network, storage and scalability – so you can focus on your business.
Of course, the main benefit of anything that sits on the cloud is that it cuts costs because you don’t need to buy expensive servers that you have to have installed and serviced regularly. You can also pay the licensing fee for Azure monthly, and you only pay for what you need as you need it, making it affordable even if you are a small business owner.
Azure is also 100% safe – an important consideration no matter the size of your business. Not only do you have peace of mind that your data won’t be affected by fire or theft, but because we focus on the latest safety methods at Microsoft, you can also be sure that it will remain firmly out of the reach of hackers.
And although hackers won’t know how to get to your data, you always will because it’s based on Windows, which you are already familiar with and which offers a well-established support structure.
Azure is a great tool to help businesses store and protect their data at an affordable rate, allowing for scalability and continuing innovation. If you haven’t signed up yet, what’s stopping you?
Posted by the Editorial Team
Microsoft had many reasons to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, thanks to the strong women occupying some of the lead roles in the company. One of those women, Mariam Abdullahi – the Mobile Devices Lead in East Africa – explains her early interest in ICT and says that in a male-dominated industry women need to remember they are equals who have just as much to offer business.
I developed an interest in technology when I started my A levels. At this time we had to go to computer labs and use machines with large floppy discs and MS DOS. I was very intrigued so I decided to choose a course that was related to computers.
I started off studying Computer Science and Business at Brunel University and then got my first job as a teacher for a year, teaching Mathematics, English and basic computer skills. After my teaching stint, I ventured into IT infrastructure and then project management. I have since had an opportunity to work in four IT-related positions in the United Kingdom and Dubai for almost 15 years before moving back to Africa, where I got the opportunity to work for Microsoft.
I have two main elements that generally fascinate me in this industry, regardless of being a woman. Firstly, it is very humbling that through technological developments, disability is not inability. People with disabilities worldwide can now rely on technology to aid them with their day-to-day tasks. Secondly, there is never a dull moment in this field. Things in this industry transition faster than others and that means I have to be remain abreast always.
I have had some interesting learning curves along the way – some were not because am a woman but an employee who has deliverables to accomplish. The solution for me was to tackle them to the best of my ability and use the lessons to grow.
At the onset, there were many cases where I would be the only woman in the conference room, which was caused some anxiety and challenged my self-confidence. However, the reality is that I was in a very hungry mode wanting to learn something new, which helped me forget that I am a woman and instead see myself as a colleague who needs to make an impact on the business.
Another challenge we face in the industry is that sometimes we don’t see the possibilities. We tend to make decisions based on the “here and now” needs and forget to look at the future.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects? What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
I am strong believer in possibilities and also adding value to everything I come across. I grew up where I was conditioned that everything is possible. There are immeasurable opportunities for women in the industry as we naturally tend to look at things differently from men.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
There are no two ways about it: planning and prioritising tasks is the only way. There are times when work will demand more input; other times social/family will come first. The most important thing is to learn what takes priority at what time.
As we celebrate women who are making it happen on International Women’s Day on 8 March, we are profiling some of Microsoft’s leading ladies. Corporate Social Investment Lead, Djam Bakhshandegi, shares her pride in seeing women leaders leaning in and supporting one another and encourages young women to pursue STEM subjects to realise their potential and lead change in the 21st century.
The ICT industry is an exciting, fast-paced and highly innovative sector to be in. It keeps me young, challenged and inspired by what we are creating and where we are going as human beings.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
I love the support, encouragement and connections with other women in the industry. I especially love seeing the cadre of women leaders we have rising in rank and leaning in, setting examples for others and supporting and mentoring them to be the best they can be.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
Balancing the “hard” and “soft” has been the most challenging, and continues to be so. Being supportive, a team enabler and leading with a systems approach and emotional intelligence need to find their balance with driving results aggressively and being a winner.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
It is vital that more women pursue STEM subjects. We need women scientists, innovators, mathematicians and so much more. As technology and science open our horizons to possibilities, we need to be the first ones on the threshold of this change. We are, after all, the mothers of nations. Our potential is immense, our responsibilities undeniable.
The beauty of working in the ICT industry is that we are often able to have flexible hours. Such an adaptable environment enables women as well as men to better achieve work/life balance. With our phones becoming work devices, everything is possible for both genders. I believe that when we reach a sharing of genders’ roles and responsibilities, we will all have a good work-life balance.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
This is the place to be in the 21st century. Prepare yourself, learn the language, lean in and be the best you can be. And don’t forget to support other women in the journey to self-realisation.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, which took place on 8 March, we wanted to profile one of Microsoft’s leading ladies – Tonia Kariuki, the Marketing Director for our 4Afrika Initiative. Tonia loves being a woman in the ICT industry because of its energy and innovative nature. She is a strong advocate for encouraging more women to pursue STEM subjects because of their increasing presence in the digital marketplace and the rich contribution she believes they can make to the industry.
What attracted you to the ICT industry?
Actually, I landed in the IT industry quite by accident. I am a lawyer by training and after my graduation, I served my pupillage at one of the leading law firms in Nairobi, Kenya. One weekend in November 1996, an old friend called me to inform me that he had been posted to Nairobi to start up a regional office for East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands for Microsoft Corporation. We agreed to meet for a drink a day later, he offered me a job, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
For a long time, the sciences were the purview of men. Women were resigned to the more “creative” career choices. However, having been in the industry for the past 18 years, I’ve found that IT is the perfect balance between art, innovation, creativity and science. I love the energy, the fact that the only constant is change and because by nature the industry is innovative, you always know that the best is yet to come – it sounds a lot like fashion, right? That’s why this is an industry that was made for women – it speaks to our ability to adapt to change. I also know that this is not the same in every industry so I’m grateful every day that my choices led me to tech.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
To be honest, no challenges that I would say are unique to the tech sector. Very early into his appointment, our CEO, Satya Nadella said, “Our industry does not respect history, it only respects innovation.” In this context, the traditional challenges women face are less obvious, innovation is what counts. There are a lot of amazing women setting trends in technology across the world from Sheryl Sandberg to our very own Juliana Rotich here in Kenya.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
Simple – inclusion. In tech, we struggle with the stereotype of a male computer scientist, we don’t see the equivalent of a female Bill Gates or a female Steve Jobs. While women are making huge strides in other disciplines like medicine and law, we continue to lag behind in tech. Inclusion allows organisations to draw from the best talent regardless of personal demographics, which in turn leads to a richer contribution to the industry. This balance can only be achieved if more women take up STEM careers. Women have surpassed men in internet usage, they account for close to 60% of online spending and they use their mobiles twice as frequently as men do. This demonstrates the increasing influence women are playing in the marketplace today. Any tech company that wants to be successful will look at these statistics and know that increased gender inclusion in the workplace is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
I believe that the primary lever to achieving a healthy work/life balance is personal choice. There is no set formula. YOU have got to find YOUR right balance that allows YOU to prioritise that which makes YOU happy.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
Go for it. Start small and build your career. If you have a great idea that doesn’t sound tech-related, think of how technology can enhance it by making it better, faster or more efficient. I don’t know if there’s any other industry that’s as committed to making other industries better than technology. There’s something for everyone.
Guest post by Agatha Gikunda, East Africa’s Head of the Software Service Group, Intel Corporation
As we celebrate women’s day today, I remember almost two decades ago, when I moved from Nairobi to Vancouver to get my Bachelor's degree in Engineering. I was one of only a handful of women in the computer engineering program. At my first job as an engineer at Nokia, I remember a time when there were only 3 women on the second floor of where more than 100 people worked.
Those numbers have changed for the better, and we have celebrated the promotion of high-profile women to chief-executive positions at tech companies, such as Hewlett-Packard's Meg Whitman, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, Intel’s Renée James and locally Microsoft’s Mariam Abdullahi, But overall, the number of women remains less than stellar in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
As more universities locally focus on getting more students to study STEM disciplines to prepare them for future jobs, we need to pay special attention to getting girls into those fields so we can have a shot at correcting gender imbalance in technology careers.
In some markets such as Asia, academic excellence is not only expected but perceived as cool. Many girls enjoy a strong start in STEM education in schools and universities, but are slowed down later in life by societal pressures to prioritize family over professional advancement.
Back home, in classrooms across Kenya and indeed most African countries, that drop-off occurs much sooner and has a domino effect -- quite simply, fewer girls choose to study in disciplines where they are the minority.
Strong female role models, who can help young women discover their inner-geek cool, are important at this age. Those of us who have walked this path should mentor girls to show them the careers possible in the world of science and technology. Strong support by technology companies through scholarships and internships is also critical to building and sustaining momentum.
Not all tech industry employees are engineers and programmers. The companies employ large numbers of people who manage projects, market services and design products. Many of these jobs do not require a computer science or an engineering degree. But the proportion of women and minorities in these types of jobs is not much better than the proportion in technical positions.
Getting girls to choose a STEM education is only half the problem; keeping them in the field is the other half. A technology career can be an isolating experience for a young woman. Strong female mentors and peer-group networks are hard to come by.
Though women role models in technology fields are important, male mentors are also key. Men occupy the majority of jobs in Computer Science and Engineering careers, including most leadership positions. They can have a powerful impact in helping girls and women succeed.
On my own journey to senior executive ranks within Nokia and later Intel, I have had to find internal champions who advocated for my growth in a way that accommodated my personal needs.
A good starting point is to learn to ask for what you need personally in order to do a great job professionally. Not only does this bring down barriers for other women in the workplace but, more importantly, it helps build a knowledge base of successful ways to address these life scenarios.
As we look to change the conversation, and numbers, of women in technology, it is important to remember that long before employers ever interview women, you and I see them -- in our living rooms, classrooms, science-fair competitions, scholarship applications, workplace interns.
It's the girl who is a gadget fan but has never dreamed that she could build one herself. It's the college student who wants to declare a major in engineering but hesitates over being the only woman in a class.
By showing them what's possible, we can all work to change the equation, one girl at a time.
“No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind,” said the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. He was talking about the importance of gender equality, which is something Microsoft takes very seriously, especially in Africa where the gender gap can be wide. It is also an important consideration considering that researchers have found that nations which elect women to their highest office see a GDP increase of up to 6.9% greater than when a male leader is elected. So in the spirit of International Women’s Day on 8 March, with the theme, ‘Make It Happen’, we wanted to highlight the importance empowering women in the tech space and some of the ways in which we are working to make this happen in Africa.
We have some catching up to do
Current trends show that women’s participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and design and mathematics (STEAM) is lagging behind their male counterparts – women only make up 15% of the ICT workforce in Kenya and 18% in South Africa. This is a concern because it is these fields that are driving progress and economic growth. It is equally important that women participate in the fields of art and design, added to the original STEM fields, because these areas are essential for innovation, which is another imperative for growth.
Microsoft is an ardent supporter of women in the STEAM fields, and as a result we are involved in several partnerships and initiatives to give them access to these fields and upskill them to succeed.
Empowering young women at all stages of their careers
As part of our YouthSpark initiative, we launched Aspire Women – a three-year program with the aim of empowering 100 000 young women in the Middle East and Africa through youth leadership, economic empowerment and civic engagement. This includes learning how to code, mentorship programs, drives to employ women from disadvantaged and underserved communities, fostering young women startups and developing volunteer programs, women policy makers and NGO engagement.
Then there are several projects we are working on to further encourage young African female students to chase a career in the technology sector. The 2015 Girls STEAM Camp is a public-private partnership between the US State Department’s LIONS@AFRICA initiative, Microsoft, Intel, Girl Up and the Rwandan Girls Initiative to expand educational opportunities to young Rwandan girls. We also run our own DigiGirlz campaign globally, and have had several camps in Africa. Since its launch in 2000, the programme has engaged with 19 000 female students in the form of workshops and one-day events, where industry professionals interact with participants and discuss innovation in technology and opportunities in the ICT sector.
Mentorship is key
Young women graduates also need guidance and skills development to succeed in the ICT space. In Kenya, 150 female graduates were selected for the EmployMentor programme. We partnered with the African Centre for Women in Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT) in an ongoing project to create a program with one-on-one Skype mentoring sessions and on-the-field training, with our own employees acting as mentors.
Beyond the student realm, it is also important to help female entrepreneurs in the ICT space to grow their businesses. In conjunction with the Association of Women Entrepreneurs (AFEM) in Morocco and INWI, our Cloud Startup Academy is doing just that. The idea of the Academy is to help young women launch innovative startups based on the latest cloud technology, along with strengthening their skills in communication, technology, entrepreneurship and marketing.
The proof is in the success stories
While these programs are ongoing, it is encouraging to see some of the success stories that have come out of initiatives like these already. For example, through a Microsoft YouthSpark programme called Ajegunle.org at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a social enterprise that connects Nigerian youth with ICT-enabled opportunities, Nigerian-born Esther Olatunde learned to be proficient and productive using computers and has become a full-time software developer. Our Aspire Women Women program has also seen several success stories. Neema, a young Egyptian women, went from being a housewife to an entrepreneur with the help of financial training giving her the confidence to expand her small family business. Also in Egypt, Tahey Nabil got career guidance from an initiative called ‘Masr Ta3mal’ and ended up fulfilling a dream to dub cartoon movies.
We believe that young women like Esther have a huge opportunity to fill the growing demand for ICT and business skills across Africa. It is imperative for these young women to acquire the necessary knowledge and skill sets to take advantage of these career opportunities, not only to participate in the global economy and create a more balanced gender distribution in the ICT space, but also because it empowers them to leverage technology to improve their daily lives and uplift their communities. So we urge African and global government, businesses and academic institutions to get involved in making it happen for our young women.
Carbon neutrality is important to Microsoft, not only in terms of our direct carbon emissions, but also when it comes to protecting biodiversity, promoting health and wellbeing and securing food and jobs. Deforestation is estimated to account for approximately 18 percent of global carbon emissions, so we have teamed up with the CarbonNeutral Company to provide carbon finance for, among others, the Meru and Nyanyuki Community Reforestation Project in Kenya. The country has gone from having a forest cover of more than 10 percent at the turn of the 20th century, to only two percent due to deforestation, commercial agriculture, charcoal burning, forest cultivation and population growth. The aim of this project is to work with local communities to create more productive and sustainable models of economic development that reduce negative impacts on local forests and biodiversity, while simultaneously strengthening the community’s economy and wellbeing.
Read the whole story here.
(Image by Lynn Johnson, Ripple Effects)
By Louis Otieno, Legal & Compliance Director at Microsoft 4Afrika
African innovation has been around for centuries, even millennia. A method to harness fire was invented in South Africa 1.4 million years ago. In Ethiopia, underground water pipes were created in 1460 BC. In more recent times Africa has also been home to the advent of the modern Kreepy Krauly, an automatic pool cleaner, and the CAT scan.
The massive growth of the internet and proliferation of new devices, has provided an incredible platform for innovators to unleash their ideas, and African innovation is flourishing like never before.
But, unfortunately, it also allows for ideas to be easily stolen, unless they are protected by intellectual property (IP). Many entrepreneurs are at risk of having their ideas taken by larger companies and some don’t know how to monetise and protect them. That’s why Microsoft 4Afrika launched the first Intellectual Property Portal, the 4Afrika IP Hub, in Kenya, to give innovators the resources and connections to protect their ideas, and take them to market. In November, Microsoft partnered with Thomson Reuters to host an IP protection event to promote innovation across East African markets.
Below, five successful innovators explain how protecting their IP is fundamental to their own growth, and to the economic development of their country’s too.
Tayeb Sbihi, Morocco. CEO and founder of B2N Consulting and co-founder of iTaxi.ma, a mobile application that recently won a Microsoft 4Afrika Innovation Grant award.
“Intellectual property is your competitive advantage.”
“Instead of concentrating all your efforts in creating a prototype or a product, you need to take time to look around you and the different IP that already exists. Then try to have your work protected so that nobody can steal or use it.”
“IP can be either the product you design, the way you design it or any component that makes the product.”
Kate Kiguru, Kenya. Founder of Ukall and a 4Afrika Innovation Grant winner.
“A lot of people feel IP will protect them from direct competition and misrepresentation. I look at it differently; if an idea or a product has someone closely trying to replicate it, then it’s evidence it has value and there is a need for it. I look at the competitors or people trying to replicate the idea as followers.”
“IP is a great option if you feel the need to protect an idea or product but don’t let it distract you too much from your key focus, and later you find out someone has already executed your idea.”
Abiola Olaniran, Nigeria. Founder and CEO of Gamsole, a Windows game development company and 4Afrika innovation grant winner
“By protecting your ideas through copyright and patents, you ensure that you will be maximizing your benefits of originality. Registering your ideas for a patent or copyright protects you and your creative work.”
“Protect your work, it’s all you have. Before releasing even a good line of code online, make sure it’s copyrighted. This way, you can lay claim to it later. Computer software may result in more than one piece of property. For example, for a software product, the source code is a property, as can be the preparatory design material for it, its general organization and its user interface. Bearing this in mind can help you effectively protect your creation.”
“As a software developer, when you write a computer program, you are creating a kind of property. By default, this property will be owned by somebody. If you’re employed by a company, your good lines of codes are owned by your employer.”
Owiti Gordon Ochieng, Microsoft DPE intern and Developer of the Month
“IP protection sparks motivation towards creative thinking enabling more individuals to come up with great ideas.”
Kaakpema Yelpaala, Uganda. Founder of access.mobile and 4Afrika innovation grant winner
“There are some areas of IP protection that play an important role in access.mobile’s work. We rely on trade secrets, trademarks and copyright laws as well as WIPO’s global framework to protect key aspects of our IP and brand.”
If you are an innovator, remember that protecting your ideas doesn’t only serve you, but your country and the continent at large. Let’s build Africa’s great new inventions together.
If you live in one of the 18 African countries with access to Office 365 – and you’ve given the service a try – you would already have seen how useful it is for improving productivity. But are you using it to its full potential?
I’ve put together five top tips that I think are critical if you want to get the most out of the service.
1. Sync Outlook across devices
Your Office 365 subscription helps you keep all your devices in sync. It allows you to install your Office 2013 desktop applications on up to five different devices, meaning you can run the service on your phone, tablet and laptop. By using ActiveSync, you can access your same customised email accounts across all of your devices. No matter which device you switch to or used last, you will find your Outlook mailbox and other folders looking exactly as you left them.
2. Declutter your inbox
Have you ever tried to focus on an important piece of work, but unimportant emails keep popping into your inbox, vying for your attention?
Office 365 helps you prioritise your work with its Clutter feature, which works as your personal assistant on Outlook. The Clutter feature studies your unique actions and habits and prioritises your emails for you, so that you can focus on what needs your immediate attention and deal with the rest later. You can train the system to better sort messages correctly by using Clutter actions to mark mail items or move them to the Clutter folder. The Clutter folder is easy to access with a single click, but your inbox remains uncluttered, improving your productivity.
3. Access documents on the Web
Your Office 365 subscription gives you access to Office Web Apps, so that you can work on all your Office files like Word, Excel and PowerPoint online. You can create a working space wherever you are by using the Web Apps together with OneDrive, which is especially useful to keep productive in those otherwise wasted moments between meetings or even on a plane. All your up-to-date data is stored in the Cloud and all changes are synchronised automatically across all your devices each time you click ‘Save’. If you have been working offline, your changes are synced with the files stored in the Cloud as soon as you are back online.
4. Share and collaborate online
Producing the best work often comes from collaborating effectively, but when your team mates are scattered around town or even a busy office, this can be quite a challenge. SharePoint Online is an Office 365 tool that allows you to share files, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and folders, and collaborate on these online in real time, in a secure environment. You can also manage access levels to allow permission to ‘Read Only’ or to edit, depending on who you are working with. Working together in this way is no different to editing a document as you normally would, except you can see when someone else opens the document, as well as which paragraph they are working on and their comments.
5. Connect and communicate wherever you are
Office 365 includes mobile apps for Microsoft’s communication platform, Lync. That means you can chat with multiple contacts at the same time, by text, voice or video, and you can do so no matter what device you’re using or where you are. No more excuses for missing that important meeting. You can also interact during your Lync meeting by sharing your desktop, programs, files and presentations, and use the interactive whiteboard for a virtual brainstorm. Usefully, you can also record your Lync meetings and share meeting notes directly to OneDrive so that you can keep track of exactly what happened.
These five simple hacks have made me so much more productive and efficient, while allowing me to be flexible when it comes to where when and where I work. Office365 is a new way of thinking because it is based in the Cloud, but for African users it’s a way to get ahead of the pack. Subscribe for Office365 to take your first step forward.
For more useful tips and tricks, click here or visit the Microsoft Africa Facebook Page or the Office Facebook Page.
As the technology market in African continues to thrive, it makes sense to have devices that are tailored to local markets. Mayokun Onawola, a developer from Nigerian based technology firm, Brian Integrated Systems Limited, is part of a dynamic, entrepreneurial team that has assembled the first ever African tablet, the Brian Tab iw10, in Nigeria.
Mayokun spent a few minutes sharing more detail on this new device.
Why did you decide to create a tablet specifically for Africans and how have you tailored it to the African market?
Our core objective was to design a tablet PC, tailor-made for the African market, but also to provide an attractive alternative to popular global brands at an affordable price point. Fundamentally, the tablet’s purpose is to help bridge the information technology gap that Nigeria and Africa at large has with the rest of the world.
What are the advantages of making the tablet Microsoft compatible?
Firstly, Microsoft technology is widely understood and used and secondly, Microsoft’s software is highly compatible with the tablet device. The device’s design provides the user with an improved Microsoft experience. Users are able to customise their Office 365 packages to suit their needs for the tablet. Because the new Office 365 allows users to choose and pay only for the programs they need, they can tailor it to their lifestyle, offering flexibility. The 10.4-inch tablet is supported with Windows 8.1 with WiFi capabilities, Bluetooth, 2GB RAM and 32GB internal memory.
How much does the tablet retail for and how does this compare to other tablets?
The tablet costs N65,000 which is significantly lower than the average cost for a tablet on the market. As the tablet is produced locally, the product importing levy and overall retail costs are reduced, which is beneficial to African consumers.
Where can users find the tablet?
The tablet is only available in Nigeria at the moment, but we are looking to launch in South Africa, Ghana and other African markets in the near future. We are working with engineers to design the tablet’s applications and content, which will be tailored for different African regions.
How has the Nigerian audience received the tablet?
The response has been positive and very supportive. A lot of people feel proud to own a tablet manufactured in Africa and in turn are supporting the growth of Africa’s tablet market.
In your opinion, how will the production of this tablet affect the African sales market?
This is a device that matches the standards of basically every device of its kind and at a competitive price and therefore, the African sales market will be positively affected. Consumer have in their hands a high-quality Microsoft device at a good price, which can only boost sales.
“My dream was to help other youth find their path,” says Ashraf Abou Zeid, Masr Ta3mal (Masr Works) trainer in Aswan Youth Center. And this is exactly what he has done. Ashraf, like hundreds of youth, was recruited by the Ministry of Youth, trained by Microsoft Egypt on the Career Coaching curricula, and became Masr Ta3mal Career trainer. Ashraf has trained tens of youth in Aswan Youth Center, in Upper Egypt.
In Upper Egypt, there is a mismatch between the present level of education and the required job skills within the employment market. After getting their bachelor degrees, many of the youth hope to work in a governmental institution or to start their own micro or small businesses. The Masr Ta3mal initiative is helping youth to do this, by offering employability services with the government youth centers across Egypt. These centers provide the youth with employment opportunities in the Ministry of Youth and help others to find their career path and start their business.
The Masr Ta3mal initiative is a result of a partnership between Microsoft Egypt, the Ministry of Youth and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt. The project aims to empower Egyptian youth and help them realize opportunities through capacity building, job placement and entrepreneurship. By equipping the Ministry of Youth centers with an online employability portal, the initiative is transforming the centers to provide a full employability eco-system from career advising, training, job placement and entrepreneurship. It helps these centers to foster the development of entrepreneurial skills and to promote creativity, personal initiative and independent thinking among young people. In doing so, they are bridging the gap between the educational system and the job market needs in Egypt.
“I can see Nubian crafts are sold internationally and I know that I can do it,” said Neama Ibrahim, an Egyptian young woman from Aswan who is working at Aswan Local Information Institution. She has always dreamt of starting her own business that would market Nubian handmade accessories all over Egypt, but did not have the means and tools to help achieve her dream. Luckily, Neama was introduced to Masr Ta3mal center in Aswan and got her first Career Coaching session with Abou Zeid where she was equipped with the tools to start her own business and the resources needed to attain her dream.
Abou Zeid introduced “Get online” training, part of the joint partnership between Microsoft Egypt, the Ministry of Youth and UNDP, to Neama where she learnt valuable computer skills needed to run a business. She also received the “Build your Business” online curricula that provide the entrepreneurial basics.
Neama received an entrepreneurial scholarship and has also competed with a hundred teams in an entrepreneurial contest – where she won 3rd place. She has now finished her complete business plan and she is working on launching her online marketing portal to sell Nubian Handmade accessories.
These are just two stories of many more. To date, Masr Ta3mal has resulted in the creation of 27 Centers, 120 career advisors, 2547 advising sessions and 13 job fairs.
At only 33 years old, Tayeb Sbihi has a BSc in Computer Science, a Master of Science in Computer Networks and an Executive MBA in International business. He is also a member of the Microsoft 4Afrika Advisory Council, the CEO and founder of B2N Consulting, a member of CEED and the co-founder of iTaxi.ma, a mobile application that recently won a Microsoft 4Afrika Innovation Grant award. Despite all of his success and achievements, Tayeb says that being an entrepreneur in Morocco has had its challenges, including lack of funding and regulations. However, he believes Morocco is rich with opportunities and encourages more local entrepreneurs to explore them. His biggest piece of advice to fellow startups is this: Gather the strengths necessary to become an entrepreneur. Fill the knowledge gaps you might have in finance, business and marketing. Having a good idea for a business is not enough. You need to have the skills to market your idea too.
Q: You certainly have achieved a lot for such a young entrepreneur! Can you tell us a bit about B2N Consulting?
A: “Growing up, I always wanted to be a telecoms engineer. I’ve always been fascinated by new technologies and how computers work. In line with that passion, I started B2N Consulting, where we test, evaluate and optimise our clients’ telecom infrastructure. We help them to improve productivity and reduce the cost of their communications environments.”
Q: You recently put B2N Consulting on hold to start iTaxi.ma. Can you tell us about that?
A: “Geo-location technology is growing in popularity, so I saw an opportunity to do something with it. There are currently 35 000 taxis operating in Morocco – 8 700 in Casablanca alone – so together with my partner Ali Echihabi we developed iTaxi.ma, a mobile application that lets users book, track and rate taxis in Morocco. One of its best features is that it allows users to track their booked taxis in real-time.”
Q: iTaxi.ma recently won a 4Afrika Innovation Grant award. What do you hope to do with the grant?
A: “The 4Afrika innovation grant includes financial support as well as mentorship from Microsoft, so we hope to use it to scale our business across Africa and adapt the service to other forms of transport, including goods.”
Q: Tell us a bit about your role as a 4Afrika Advisory Council member?
A: “I joined the council as a youth leader and my vision is to help bring affordable broadband access to the youth. I would love to see a market where everyone has access to the internet. Connectivity is one of the solutions and tools that can help us solve some of our biggest issues. It can help reduce illiteracy through e-Learning and it can give the population a means to speak and share their issues, giving them strength to stand for their rights.”
Q: What are your future plans?
A: “My goal is to make my companies sustainable across various regions in Africa. But I also have a new goal, and that is to be a source of inspiration and motivation for my son. He is 9 months old now and I want to ensure that there are enough resources available when he grows up, so that he can promote our great continent.”
Follow Tayeb on Twitter at @staieb
This Ajegunle-born youth became a software developer with the help of a Microsoft YouthSpark programme
Growing up as a timid young girl with a low self-esteem in one of the most notorious slums in the suburbs of Lagos, Nigeria, Esther Olatunde could easily have become a miscreant (popularly known as ‘agbero’) or even a prostitute.
As a disadvantaged youth living in a disadvantaged community such as Ajegunle, in a country where tens of thousands of students graduate from tertiary institutions each year with only about 10% of them being employed, sometimes several years after graduation, Esther like majority of the unemployed youth in Nigeria could have been involved in criminal activities such as cybercrime.
Instead, she sought good role models to help her get more meaning out of life.
Although Esther knew how to use a computer before, she got introduced to several opportunities that abound beyond Internet scams and cybercrime. Through the Microsoft YouthSpark programme called Ajegunle.org at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a social enterprise that connects Nigerian youth with ICT-enabled opportunities, Esther became extremely proficient and productive with computers.
Ajegunle.org is a five-week intensive training programme that trains and equips young people with information and communication technology, entrepreneurship and life skills and demonstrates Microsoft’s concerted effort and commitment to addressing the emerging opportunity divide among young people in Nigeria.
With the goal of creating new opportunities for millions of youth and empowering them to change their world, Esther’s example shows the huge impact that the Microsoft YouthSpark programme through Ajegunle.org has had on the participants, their families and their communities.
"Ajegunle.org gave me an advantage and it also placed me on a platform to become who I am today,” said Esther. "I love working with computers, that’s what challenges me…and I got an offer that gave me the opportunity to develop myself more and become a software developer.”
Esther joined the Microsoft YouthSpark programme in March 2008, after completing her secondary school education in July of 2007. Upon completion of the programme, Esther extended the knowledge she had acquired to six other youth – two of whom were her siblings – which was a criteria for becoming a participant in the training programme.
"It’s really empowering for me and the people that I have thought as well,” explained Esther.
Her efforts have equally paid off. Esther has successfully completed a four-month long internship programme with the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department at the UK Deputy High Commission in Lagos.
Now a full-time software developer, Esther plans to study for a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, a dream she says was inspired by the Ajegunle.org training.
"Microsoft and Ajegunle.org has changed my life,” she says.
By Lutz Ziob
Dean of 4Afrika Academy
“Desire! That’s the one secret of every person’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire,” Johnny Carson
There is no shortage of desire amongst African youth - desire to learn, desire to achieve, desire to make a difference. The goal of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is to harness this desire and empower youth to turn their dreams into reality. So, we are thrilled to be hosting 14 Mandela Washington Fellows as part of U.S. President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative, for a three month fellowship at Microsoft’s offices around the continent. This will be the first group of fellows who have been meticulously selected from some of the most passionate young Africans out there. All of them are working on their own ventures, finding innovative ways to solve local problems that are close to their hearts, for example: Haleta Giday from Ethiopia who is a lecturer and public prosecutor. She focuses on improving women’s and children’s rights. Her desire after the fellowship is to work with the United Nations and African Union on peacekeeping and conflict issues as well as conduct trainings on gender equality and women empowerment.
The fellowship will enable these youth to drive their projects with the encouragement of Microsoft and its broad network of partners and world-class expertise in a fast-paced environment. Access to a variety of powerful influencers will enable all to benefit even if they are not necessarily adopting a technological solution.
During the three months, fellows can practice pitching for finance, receive personal feedback on their solutions and business models, get introduced to startup accelerators and shadow Microsoft’s top decision-makers while attending high-level meetings. Most fellows have not worked in a multinational company before so the exposure to doing business across borders and to international best practices is an invaluable experience. Microsoft will also be offering 360 degree evaluation for each fellow and leadership training from professional coaches. All of this will take place while being immersed in a modern working environment with the must-have tools of the modern workplace. Fellows will learn how to utilise the power of technology to achieve their ambitions including Microsoft’s Cloud-based productivity tools like Office 365, and Azure.
But this immense opportunity is not just for the fellows. Microsoft will have the privilege to learn from them: What challenges do they face every day? What are the grassroots needs and opportunities in their countries? How can Microsoft work with them to create sustainable growth and career solutions on the continent?
These young leaders will help inform Microsoft, as a global company, of the African challenges and opportunities with a perspective that is completely aligned to their markets and consumers. We look forward to the fellows providing an injection of curiosity and questioning, not allowing us to become set in our ways. They are part of our investment into human capital on the continent, one of the primary drivers of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative.
So, it is with excitement and pleasure to introduce our first group of fellows:
Nigerian, Mfonobong Ekpo, is a maritime lawyer, award-winning author, founder of the Discovery Center and chief operating officer for the Future Project Africa. She is most excited for the internship because it is an “opportunity to be in an intense learning environment, which offers tangible opportunities for growth and development. Microsoft embodies this kind of environment and culture. “
Ugandan, Humphrey Anjoga, is co-founder & chief operations officer at the Uganda School of Professional Development. His goal is to become an accomplished ICT professional particularly in e-Government and Information Systems Audits. “My dream is to engage the rural community in the use of ICT through establishing regional ICT centers.”
Kenyan, Emily Murabu, is the founder of Tunaweza. She wants to see more women as entrepreneurs, who are able to embrace technology to solve their social problems and elevate their social status. In the next five years, she would like to see persons living in the rural areas having access to internet services
Charlene Migwe from Kenya has three years of experience in IT and is building solutions to help African citizens contribute to the betterment of their countries. She believes the Yali internship will help her learn better management skills, that will spur the growth of her company to more sustainable levels.
Tanzanian, Ruth Elineema, is a lecturer at the University of Arusha and founder of Gongali Model Company Limited. “The YALI internship is an opportunity to share my initiative and network with experts and gain relevant that can help it grow. She aims to develop a holistic transformation of small communities and under-served groups by giving them access to appropriate technologies through creative and customised financial solutions.
Laud Boateng in Ghana is a trainee public health physician who “wants to see a country positioned for health and wealth among its populace - an environment where people will have the strength and aptitude to contribute their talents to the total development of the region and the global village. It is my desire that the current youth bulge will be instrumental in driving this change with mentors shaping this dream.”
Namibian, Mandy Shemuvalula, is founder and CEO of Gloca Inc and believes that the state of ICT in Namibia is growing and evolving, but not fast enough. “A lot of businesses are not able to reach optimal levels of efficiency and effectiveness and this reflects on their poor performance. Those that are, become a beacon of hope for the rest. It is still a virgin industry.”
Aarthi Burtony from Mauritius is chairperson of the DIS-MOI. Her personal goal is to ensure ICT forms a part of daily life for every Mauritian irrespective of their social class. “It must include specialised technology for persons with disabilities. I hope to make a difference in the lives of those who never thought they would one day have access to ICT.”
David Chakombera from Zambia is a senior advisor at Ernst & Young and co-founder of Africa Lead, an incubator for gifted entrepreneurs. He is also a member of the ‘Lead Us Today’ board where he aims to empower young people to lead community development efforts and upscale mentorship for the informal sector in Zimbabwe
Hastings Mkandawire has over ten years of experience in rural alternative energy and social-economic initiatives to uplift the youth. Currently, he serves as country coordinator for Media & Technology of the Youth (MTESO). Post the fellowship, he plans to conduct workshops trainings to strengthen youth economic activities in support of youth in isolated rural areas of Malawi.
Haleta Giday from Ethiopia is a lecturer and public prosecutor. She focuses on improving women’s and children’s rights. Her desire after the fellowship is to work with the United Nations and African Union on peacekeeping and conflict issues as well as conduct trainings on gender equality and women empowerment.
Team MTN-Qhubeka, Africa's first pro-continental cycling team, is effortlessly taking on the world with the help of cloud software. Through Microsoft Office 365, the team of 22 riders and 35 ground staff has managed to connect nine countries. Douglas Ryder, the team principal and renowned cyclist, discusses how Office 365 has helped manage team logistics across the globe and how the team is supporting Africa’s growing cycling community.
It has been three months since you implemented Microsoft Office 365, what has the impact been not only on the ground staff but also the riders?
Now that we are on a single platform, our team calendaring and scheduling has vastly improved, as has our communication among our 35 staff and 22 riders. It has reduced complexity of our logistics in managing our team across multiple countries as everyone is more informed and has the right information at their fingertips. The staff and team now get notified of where and when they need to be and this has saved us time and money.
With the entire team being based in three different countries, how did the team manage the diaries and other logistics before Office365? How has the software improved this process?
Prior to this implementation we sent spreadsheets via email and often staff and riders were working off previous spreadsheets. With riders and races changing often, it was very difficult to keep everyone on the same version, which often resulted in extra cost as we ended up calling people to make sure they had received the latest information. Now we have a central repository updated in one place and the relevant people get automatic notification of updates and changes; so we have one version of the truth and that has helped a lot.
With time reduced for the ground staff to organise the logistics of the team, where was the saved time invested?
The time savings have helped our sports directors spend more time on race preparation and race analysis to feedback to the riders so that we can prepare better to achieve our goals. This was often only done at an event when the team was already at the race but now this is done prior to events, which mean we are better prepared as a team and can more confidently take on the challenges of each event. Staff and riders are more relaxed and therefore perform better.
How has access to the cloud enhanced the exposure of the Qhubeka rural initiatives?
Qhubeka is a separate business to the team and is not managed off our infrastructure but the more professionally we manage our operations, the more it feeds off into our other initiatives, of which Qhubeka is a big part. As a team, we race to raise funds and provide exposure to the Qhubeka Foundation and the benefits of providing bicycles to people in South Africa and Africa. The next phase of our rollout will be to include the Qhubeka bike handovers in our calendar so that all staff and riders are aware of when they are happening.
Have you managed to secure interest from more riders by being able to better manage teams remotely?
Using Office 365 has helped our team be more professional, which our riders really enjoy. This is one of the additional benefits of being part of Team MTN-Qhubeka; because riders usually struggle with logistics, our streamlined solution is helping in rider negotiations and attracting new talent to our team.
Posted by: Rotimi Olumide, Microsoft Windows Lead for sub-Saharan Africa
When all is said and done, what do you want your legacy to be?
That’s a career question that I ask a lot of people. It’s an important question, because it helps to shape a fulfilling career path.
A lot of people in Africa aspire to work in international organisations, in top level positions, where they can earn a lot of money. That’s a great and rewarding goal, but unfortunately for Africa it means we are losing our talent to more developed markets. It is true that Africa doesn’t have the infrastructure, internet penetration and access to resources that some of these countries do (yet). However, if you want to have a meaningful impact in rapidly growing markets, there’s no better place to be. Africa offers us the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better, every day.
Working in developed markets does enable a person to make a difference – you can make a strong market even stronger. But in Africa, we can help African people to do more and become more, by helping small businesses grow, local economies thrive, rural communities embrace technology to solve local challenges and nurture a workforce in global competitiveness.
I am Canadian by birth and grew up in Nigeria, but I’ve lived much of my adult life in the United States and Canada. I considered coming to work in Africa for over 10 years. Now that I’m here, I really wish I’d made the move sooner and I constantly encourage other Africans to do the same. If you are an African, living and working overseas but considering returning home, here is why I think you should do it.
1: You will have a competitive advantage
When you live and work in more modern and developed parts of the world, you develop essential 21st century skills quickly: Digital literacy, creative and innovative thinking, curiosity, leadership and accountability. If you brought all of those skills back home to Africa, you would have a strong competitive advantage. Africa is fast becoming a pre-eminent destination for foreign investment and with your understanding of how both Western and African companies operate, you would help these foreign companies to be more successful in Africa. Many countries in Africa offer comparable lifestyles to those offered in developed markets and a growing number of companies can offer competitive compensation packages, as well. You will also be able to encourage more foreign investment in local infrastructure, enabling Africa to develop its economy and competitiveness.
2: You can participate in the growth of Africa
The wonderful thing about Africa is that it’s in an exciting transition phase. As more technology and resources come into the country, we’re shifting to a knowledge-based, Cloud-first economy focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. However, because of the digital divide and lack of 21st century skills, this shift is not as fast as it could be. If more Africans return to Africa, we can actively participate in this transition. We can help transfer skill sets, insights and learnings from the West, close knowledge gaps and unlock new opportunities. Africans can, in fact, share their valuable insights and contributions from anywhere in the world. Knowledge can always be sent back home. Books, technology and equipment can be made available, online courses can be created and shared. The point is, you don’t have to move back to Africa to participate in its growth – but do something to help. You’ll be surprised how much knowledge you’ve picked up over the years. Find a way to share that knowledge and you will make a difference.
3: You’ll be a leader who others aspire to emulate
When you hear an inspirational story about someone who has overcome difficult circumstances, it’s great. When you hear an inspirational story about someone who has overcome the same difficult circumstances you are in, it’s even better. People aspire to be like those who they can relate to or identify with. The same applies in the business world. Employees want to be like leaders who come from the same background as they do. In Africa, your background, heritage and culture all play to your advantage. You can be that inspiring leader and success story that others aspire to. You can encourage more future leaders on the continent.
There is so much need in Africa, but there is still a shortage of talent to fulfil it all. We all have the power to change that, if we decide it’s what we want our legacy to be. Remember that you can make millions of dollars in America. But you can impact millions of lives in Africa.
Posted by: Mteto Nyati, General Manager-MEA Emerging Regions, Microsoft
The talent and potential of Africa’s youth should throb to the fast beat of the continent’s growth. But the opportunity gap and digital divide still prevents many of the 200 million youths on the continent, aged between 15 and 24, from reaching their full potential. I’ve seen how access to technology can be the key to unlocking possibilities and helping Africa’s youth become the continent’s biggest asset.
During South Africa’s Youth Month, I visited Doasho High School in rural Limpopo. This year, the school expects at least eight distinctions from their final-year Physical Science students, with the help of the Microsoft 4Afrika Limpopo TV white spaces programme. This project is providing five schools with low-cost, high-speed white spaces broadband. It is also providing classrooms with 7-inch tablets, to help students collaborate, access learning material, complete online assessments and enter virtual laboratories that bring their lessons to life. With the help of master teachers who have undergone training on teaching with technology, these students will leave the school equipped with critical thinking and the ability to collaborate and better solve problems – 21st Century skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.
As Africa’s economy diversifies from a labour-based to a knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that the youth have the skills necessary to compete in and lead this transition. Careers requiring skills in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are in hot demand and with a very high earning potential. Young nerds, for example, who were once seen as odd for spending so much time behind their computer screens, are now the popular
kids in town. Africa’s problems are a breeding ground for innovators to help solve them using technology and make money at the same time.
That’s why, in the spirit of Youth Month, Microsoft and Sci-Bono Discovery Centre teamed up to host a free, three-day “Week of Code” coding workshop, to introduce school-leavers and current pupils to the world of coding and help them discover the wealth of opportunities available to them in the sector. As Anele Masiza, a coder from the Johannesburg Microsoft AppFactory says: “Technology offers us this platform. We can use it to say: ‘Look at Africa the way we see it – the way we tell it’. It can change lives.”
Also in Youth Month, we celebrated the graduation of 499 students from our Student2Business (S2B) partnership with the Development Bank of South Africa, which plans to train and absorb 3 000 unemployed youngsters over the next three years. These youngsters have no shortage of talent, but many graduates do not have the immediate work experience in the desired skill-set to secure jobs. Companies, on the other hand, face shortages of the right skills. Programmes like S2B help close this gap, providing a roadmap for employment.
Africa’s youth are full of great ideas, but many stop at the ‘idea stage’, leaving their ideas vulnerable to exploitation. That’s why last month we launched the Microsoft 4Afrika Intellectual Property (IP) Hub in Nairobi, which provides innovators with the tools and resources to protect and commercialise their ideas. The first step is to register their idea with a local IP authority and then secure proof of ownership – something the Hub helps to do.
At Microsoft, our promise to help bridge the gaps for our youth is unwavering – and it goes beyond Youth Month. Young Africans are the future of this continent and when plugged into technology, their potential gets a whole lot brighter. Our ask of youth is to keep on shining, keep an open mind, and believe in yourselves as ‘solutioneurs’. Don’t wait for a problem in your community to be solved by someone else. Think about doing it yourself, make money from it and create a brighter future in Africa.
Posted by: Djam Bakhshandegi, Citizenship Lead, Microsoft West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands. 1.65 million. That’s a big number. More importantly, it’s an exciting number, because it’s the number of students who have participated in our annual Microsoft Imagine Cup competition since its inception 10 years ago.
Over the past decade, young minds have created millions of new games, applications and solutions – solutions that address some of the world’s toughest social problems.
And Africa has been among them!
Last year, Team Code 8 from Uganda walked away with the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Award, for developing an app that helps detect Malaria – without even pricking a body part.
And this year, we’re proud to see even more brilliant, innovative and life-saving solutions come out of Africa. Teams from Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco have all competed in this year’s 12th annual edition – and three of them are moving on to the World Finals, taking place in Seattle on the 29th of July 2014!
Below is an overview of what just some of our local teams have created.
Team AfriGal Tech,Uganda – World Finalist What they created: mDex What it does: According to Team AfriGal Tech, every year in Uganda 30 000 babies are born with sickle cell disease, a hereditary and life-threatening blood disorder. 80% of these babies won’t make it to the age of five. mDex is a mobile sickle cell diagnosis tool, which is made up of a mobile app and an external compound lens. The tool allows for a quick, easy and affordable diagnosis, by using computer vision and pattern recognition.
Fun fact: Team AfriGal Tech come from Makerere University. They were also the only all-female team to compete in the Imagine Cup National Finals this year!
Team High Rise, Nigeria – World Finalist What they created: CATARA What it does: CATARA uses HD smartphone cameras to quickly, accurately and affordably detect early cataracts. It helps to reduce the rate at which cataracts cause total blindness, while also supplying statistical data to NGOs, government bodies and research institutions. “We are passionate about reducing the rate of cataract surgeries performed in the world. We want to offer a better life for everyone. We have dreamt it. We have built it. And now we, as a team, believe that our solution can live it,” says the team.
Team Illogic, Egypt – World Finalist What they created: Puppy in Bubble What it does: Falling under the ‘Games’ category, Puppy in Bubble is a fun and interactive physics-based game. It follows the story of Spout, a mischievous puppy that always wanders away from his owner, Adam!
Team AGRIStars,Rwanda What they created: Farmer climate and soil assistant What it does: Farmer climate and soil assistant is a software application that analyses the fertility of soil. Users take a photo of the soil to begin the analysis process, which detects available nutrients and suggests crops that are suitable to be grown on that piece of land.
Fun fact: This is the first year that Rwanda has competed in the Imagine Cup competition. Team AGRIStars come from the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, where they are all completing their bachelor’s degrees in Computer Engineering.
What they created: Life Buddy What it does: Life Buddy is a mobile application that uses Microsoft Azure to help anyone who is in need of a blood donation to find matching blood donors. Users send a request to the app, which then sends a notification to donors of a compatible blood group. The notification includes details of the hospital and contact details, so that users can receive blood in the fastest possible time. Fun fact: Team Africon hail from Jomo Kenyatta University. Their platform of choice for development is Windows Phone 8, for its easy-to-use and cost-effective development framework.
What they created: Hero from the Past What it does: Hero from the Past is a 3D, Windows Phone 8 game. It follows the story of a child on a quest to save the planet. The most innovative feature of the game is the ability to take your favourite characters and print them on a t-shirt!
Fun fact: Tunisia has competed in the Imagine Cup competition every year. This year, the country had over 500 entries from 1 000 participants – and Team NewGen came out on top!
Team Absoft Corp.,Senegal What they created: EControl What it does: EControl is an application that allows for remote monitoring, home automation and telemetry, by combining a bi-modular electronic device with Windows Phone or PC technology.
Team Win Programmers,Botswana What they created: KLOK What it does: KLOK is a tour and first-aid guide application. The app combines Bing Maps and Bing Weather to provide tourists with on-the-go weather updates, allowing them to check conditions before their outings and view alternative routes should the weather be bad. It also provides useful tips on how to respond to encounters with dangerous animals or poisonous plants. Fun fact: KLOK is not an internet-based application. That means it’s reliable, anywhere!
Team RedSilence,Morocco What they created: Red Silence What it does: Red Silence is a robot that is controlled only by blinking! It is designed to help paraplegics and quadriplegics complete various daily tasks that would otherwise be very difficult to do.
Fun fact: Team Red Silence is made up of three members from the Moroccan School of Engineering Science. This is the 6th year that Morocco has competed in the competition.
I am so proud and humbled to see the many teams who have and who are still representing Africa in this year’s competition. I’m also gratified to see more young women entering the coding world. These apps, games and solutions are all extraordinary, and are proof that the youth of Africa are passionate about making a difference in the world. I hope that their hard work encourages even more young students to join in the Imagine Cup competition next year – and show everyone that Africa can accelerate technology for the world.
Please join me in congratulating each and every one of the teams who took part.
Her objective was to challenge the idea that motherhood and professional life do not mix. "I told them you can do both," she says.
At 36, Riham Mansour from Cairo is a computer science researcher at Microsoft, has a BSc and MSc degree, has won two awards and – on top of it all – is a full-time mother. How does she manage her work and life balance? When Riham joined Microsoft, she made it clear that she would come in early, do her job well, and leave at exactly 4pm to spend time with her children.
“Motherhood and careers have nothing to do with each other. Each is a stand-alone thing. I’m showing the world you can have a family and make progress in your career.”
Read her story here: http://www.microsoft.com/eu/creative-minds-at-microsoft/riham-mansour.aspx