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Posted by Cheick DiarraChairman for Africa
African women from all walks of life have demonstrated capabilities and potentials that extend far beyond producing food and raising children. Given their central role not only as mothers and caregivers, but also as farmers and informal traders among others, by unleashing their potential we stand a better chance of unlocking the continent’s growth. Significant progress has been made in Africa to advance both women’s empowerment and their status in society – but there is still more we can do.
Women in Africa continue to face discrimination and inequality. Despite the legal guarantees for women’s right for political and economic participation, stereotypical gender roles are deep-seated, limiting women’s employment and decision-making opportunities. Progress on gender equality and women's empowerment is critical to advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) overall and there is increased recognition of the linkages between gender equality and achievement of all the MDGs.
Adding to that, we have a legacy in Africa of uneducated adults – and this cycle needs to be broken. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate population are women and girls. Despite tremendous progress made toward gender empowerment, significant challenges still face women throughout their lives.
Broadly speaking, women are poor in Africa, they have limited claim to their land, no property, less opportunity and yet they are the ones who hold the key to education for all. The challenge is by no means a small one – but the potential is what we should focus on. As we invest in literacy programmes around the world - I suggest that special attention is paid to the female population. If we invest in the women of Africa and in basic literacy programmes for them, this will have an exponential effect in terms of broader literacy and education. We can create economies of scale if we correctly target the sector of the population that has the power to influence and lead and fundamentally accelerate literacy across the continent. The ambitious task of educating our children in Africa suddenly becomes a good deal more simple – and achievable.
I believe this economy of scale is best achieved through technology. Think of how the combination of a computer, mobile telephony, multi-media software and the Internet have the power to bring the written word to life, by sound or by sight, at relatively little expense across oceans and continents.
Technology access has a multiplying effect that opens up new worlds to schoolchildren, new markets to entrepreneurs and small businesses or new citizen communities to governments, irrespective of geographical location.
How then do we harness this potential in ICT?
Last September we launched a portal with UNESCO called the Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy. This online resource connects experts with teachers, NGOs and governments who need tried and tested literacy curriculum, programmes, teaching methodologies and policy guidance. Based on Microsoft’s SharePoint technology, the Network serves as a global forum and community that can help scale the best practices in the spread of literacy, and especially literacy for women. I believe that is a step in the right direction.
This is the type of collaboration that is going to help reverse the gender gap and address the poverty illiteracy often breeds. Today, on International Women’s Day I want to urge you to start thinking about how you can contribute. Together, we can use technology to transform the lives of children and women around the world who are excluded from society, the economy and national policy. We are all stakeholders in the MDG’s common denominator - literacy.
Posted by Vis Naidoo, Citizenship Lead, Microsoft South Africa
Many of the world's 6 000 languages are absent from the public arena, and 50 percent are in danger of disappearing altogether.
As we observe Mother Language Day around the world today, we are also celebrating it in our own “Rainbow Nation”, where 10 million citizens speak isiZulu as their first-language, 8 million isiXhosa, 4 million Sesotho sa Leboa and 6.5 million Afrikaans, to name but a few. In fact, in South Africa, more than 47 million people use 25 different languages every single day.
I sit in the fortunate position, here at the southern tip of Africa, of having learnt to speak bits of the official and unofficial languages outside of English that are spoken here. Outside of talking technology I try to limit my use of English as I deal with NGOs and business partners whose first language this is not - most of my fellow South Africans speak one of the 11 official languages of the country.
Although my ideal world constitutes a place where everybody is able to talk to each other freely, unhindered by obstacles like language and access to technology, there’s tremendous empowerment in working in your own language.
First languages play an important role in the integration of all aspects of public life, but especially so in education. Yet half of all South Africans don't have access to technology, and when they do, English is more often than not, not a language they can fully understand.
Nurturing a rich linguistic diversity depends on these languages becoming more than just vehicles of cultural heritage – they must also become vehicles of opportunity for advancement. South Africa’s much-acclaimed multilingual language policy was born of the need to recognise and support those African languages that were marginalised in the past. However, with English still dominating as the official language in most sectors of society, mother-tongue speakers of South Africa’s other 10 official languages have received the short end of the stick.
Through Microsoft’s broader Local Language Program, we have seen first-hand how providing software programmes in local languages has opened up new worlds for education and the economic participation of millions, and especially so in adults and for continuing education among South Africa’s previously disadvantaged communities.
Our partnership with local translation vendor Web-lingo over the years has seen the successful translation of our software and operating systems into the four language streams of Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Sesotho sa Leboa. In a country whose indigenous languages formed the basis of local cultures, it was no easy task to apply language, culture and preferred “look and feel” nuances such as idiomatic expressions and color sensitivities to the localization of these language interface packs into the correct technical lexis for each vernacular.
In fact, when Web-lingo originally had to translate the 4 million words used in the Office 2007 suite and Vista operating system into the four languages, this herculean task took the 40 linguists and project managers working on it many hundreds of hours to successfully complete. The real test was translating words such as ‘broadband’ and ‘network’, because in languages like isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sesotho sa Leboa, a direct translation simply doesn't exist. For us, it was really important to protect the languages and address their specific needs when designing the translations.
Languages in general have a wider social function – they reflect the dynamic growth of science and technology. As a language is used less and less, speakers lose confidence and pride in it. The creation of technical languages is therefore directly linked to the revival and growth of all national languages.
On this note, we have gone one step further in our collaborative efforts. To build interoperable solutions applicable to real-world problems, we partnered with local open source software evangelist, Dwayne Bailey of Translate.org.za, to incorporate the Creole machine translation support from Bing into Translate.org.za’s Virtaal tool.
This simple step made it possible to translate anything from disaster management software to documents, press releases, blogs and other content in a tool specifically designed for human translators. This tool can play a real role for global government agencies and NGOs in international disaster-relief efforts, where language presents a barrier to effective aid.
So, in deference to the ‘mother languages’ of our deep-tech readers, we also pay our respects to greater interoperability – the ability of different systems to talk to each other – on this special day.
Finally, I’m proud to share that our isiZulu version of the Digital Literacy Curriculum will in May 2011 join the stable of 35 globally translated DLC’s currently in global circulation, allowing isiZulu users to not only see the software in their home language, but also to learn in their mother tongue the essential skills to compute with confidence, including guidelines on how to use the Internet, send e-mails and prepare a résumé.
Posted by Louis Otieno
General Manager, Microsoft East and Southern Africa
For nearly 20 years, Microsoft has worked hard to create a vast and diverse network of partners across Africa, helping to place technology at the heart of sustainable development. We see our role within the region as providing investment opportunities, whilst helping to improve Africa’s business and investment climate in order to attract and sustain higher levels of investment and enriching the lives of the African people. We are very proud of the work we do locally with our partners and believe strongly that the implementation and impact of our products and programmes, offers renewed growth and development within Africa.
I am pleased to say our partner, Virtual City, was recently awarded an Outstanding Regional Achievement Award at this year’s World Summit Award Mobile 2010 for their product Virtual City AgriManagr. The Outstanding Regional Achievement award celebrates creativity and innovation, which VirtualCity has in abundance.
With over 10 years’ experience Virtual City has been able to carve a position for itself as the market leader in the development, customization and implementation of innovative mobility solutions. Having been registered in the Microsoft Partner Network since August 2009, we have worked closely with them to provide tailor-made mobility solutions both in the local and international spheres.
Its winning solution, Virtual City AgriManagr was developed to help local farmers manage the weighing, grading and receipting of produce collected. The system also allows farmers to pay suppliers using cashless transactions and track & reward their most loyal customers and suppliers. Built on Microsoft technologies, Virtual City AgriManagr can be used to accurately capture and deliver produce from the buying centre up until delivery to the factory.
The system works by weighing the farmer’s produce at the collection point using an electronic weighing scale and the information is sent directly using Bluetooth technology to the field agent's handheld device/ Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) specifying produce delivered, quality, quantity, farmer details, collection point, payment due etc. which is automatically sent to the headquarters using a secure VPN connection.
The farmer is supplied with a receipt at the collection point which gives information on month-to-date deliveries. This means the farmer has an accurate record of the deliveries they have made and can use information captured for trading, credit facilities, track their productivity etc. This process reduces turn-around time from collection to payments and gives the members of the supply chain accurate, real-time information while improving relationships and profitability.
At times it can be difficult for farmers in the region to manage the capture and delivery of their goods accurately. By automating this process, Virtual City AgriManagr increases efficiency while reducing fraud. The introduction of this new technology to farmers has led to an increase in efficiency and simplified business processes this has led to improved relations between the growers, buyers and the factories.
I invite you to join me in congratulating the team at Virtual City for a well deserved win. They work hard to innovate and create software technologies that improve the way Africa grows. This innovation has transformed life and opportunity for many people and we look forward to working with them again in the future and contributing to real change in Africa.
Posted by Dr. Jummai Umar-AjijolaCitizenship Manager Lead, Microsoft Anglophone West AfricaThe concern for Internet safety is a global phenomenon. It is of particular concern in Africa as those who previously never had access are increasingly being connected through their computers, mobile phones and other devices. Although the prevalence of both social and business Internet-enabled processes is generally seen as good news, the concern for safety and the attendant fears around cybercrime remain a major source of worry.Nigeria itself is beset by many of those problems common to Africa and the rest of the world – many people living below the breadline, high unemployment and a segment of the population that is willing to do anything, legal or otherwise, in order to make a living. However, since there is no clear legislation in Nigeria around cybercrime, it has become one of those grey areas increasingly exploited by criminals seeking an easy route to riches.But all this is changing and this week in Nigeria the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Microsoft, held the first West Africa Cybercrime Summit. This event was the first ever regional event on combatting cybercrime and bought together over 200 people from across the world, from both the public and private sector, to focus on eliminating cybercrime and fostering legitimate economic opportunity for West Africans.It may seem unlikely that Nigeria, a country that may sometimes have something of an infamous reputation with regards to cybercrime, would be the host for a cybercrime summit. However, the impact of cybercrime on Nigeria’s ability to do business globally is enormous. With figures suggesting that some 40 per cent of the country’s annual $20-billion income is lost to fraud and corruption, the nation’s international reputation has taken a battering. Not only is Nigeria losing millions in tax revenue that could go towards local infrastructure that would attract foreign investment, but even local businesses find their emails are automatically blocked, simply because they originate on a Nigerian server. With this in mind, it is vital for private and public sector players to work at redirecting the country’s youth towards a more appropriate use of online resources. The aim is to provide opportunities to use skills positively, if they are not to waste the opportunity that ICT offers to compete globally.As co-sponsors of the summit, Microsoft Nigeria and the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit are actively working with international stakeholders, including the EFCC of Nigeria, on programs to fight Internet fraud in West Africa, a problem that continues to victimize people around the world. One form of cybercrime that has become especially associated with the region is the advance fee fraud, collectively known as “Nigeria” or “419” scams. Through schemes such as fake lotteries, bogus inheritances, romantic relationships, investment opportunities or – infamously – requests for assistance from “officials,” scammers promise an elusive fortune in exchange for advance payments. According to Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report volume 9, advance fee fraud accounted for 8.6 per cent of the spam messages blocked by Microsoft’s Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) in the second quarter of 2010 alone.419 scams, known locally as “yahoo-yahoo,” have also taken root in Nigeria’s popular culture, where scammers’ reputations in Nigeria are popularised in songs and music videos celebrating their exploits. To help address this issue, the Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (MISSPIN), EFCC and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria collaborated with the highly respected Nigerian music producer, Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo, and popular local musicians, Banky W, MI, Modele, Omawumi, Rooftop MCs, Bez and Wordsmith, to release the song “Maga No Need Pay.”
Posted by Hennie Loubser General Manager, Microsoft West, East, Central Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands
In recent years, it has been the private sector that has driven the expansion of technology access in Africa, by investing USD 11.5 billion or an average 1.3% of Africa’s GDP between 2004 and 2007 (Source: African Economic Outlook). That is because businesses like Microsoft - and many, many others - understand the capacity that technology in all its forms, from the PC to the mobile phone, can build for societies and economies.
To expand on our commitment to Africa’s development, we have partnered with the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) to use technology to promote good governance and poverty reduction on the continent.
Specifically, the Memorandum of Understanding that Dr Frannie Léautier, ACBF Executive Secretary, and I signed in Johannesburg earlier this month outlines how we are bringing our expertise and resources together to identify where technology and training can:
1. Improve the effective delivery of public services for citizens;2. Enhance national and regional capacity to formulate and implement ICT policies; 3. Develop public sector-oriented ICT solutions.
I am proud that Microsoft is one of the first companies in the private sector to formally establish a partnership with the ACBF, an organisation celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and I encourage others in the industry to lend their support to sustainable capacity building programmes in Africa.
To prepare for the cloud transition, IT leaders who make investments in infrastructure, architectures, and skills have a critical need for a clear vision of where the industry is heading. We believe the best way to form this vision is to understand the underlying economics driving this long-term trend. We’ve done extensive analysis of these economics in Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy Group and have decided to share these insights with our customers, partners and the broader industry by publishing a new whitepaper, “The Economics of the Cloud.”
Read more about this whitepaper and the how we believe the cloud will impact every player in the IT world, from service providers and systems architects to developers and end users at our sister blog Microsoft on the Issues.
Posted by Sarietjie MusgraveHead of ICT Innovation in School Education at the University of the Free State, South Africa
The sixth annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum (WWIEF) kicks off today in Cape Town with a visit to schools in the area that are leading the way in new and exciting teaching techniques. Here, guest blogger Sarietjie Musgrave, Head: ICT Innovation in School Education at the University of the Free State, South Africa, tells us why she values WWIEF:
WWIEF gives teachers a truly unique chance to be recognised for the work they do and feel connected with a global network of educators. Teachers can be ambassadors for their own countries and really be recognised for the work that they do – then take what they have seen back to the classroom and share it with their peers to continue to change the face of learning.
When I attend WWIEF each year, I expect to feel inspired. This community of teachers is very passionate and, for me, the event is all about the people that you meet who are willing to share that passion for students across the world. As I walk around the projects on display and listen to the thoughts of both the speakers and other attendees, I love thinking of how what I have heard can be applied to the educators I work with – from first year teaching students through to someone who has been teaching Maths for 30 years. Throwing in new techniques and ideas helps me to think outside of the box and really collaborate with others to develop the best learning experience possible.
The things that you see at WWIEF may not be complicated – normally the best out-takes are simple ideas done extraordinarily well and can be repeated in any classroom worldwide. Engaging learners with twenty-first century skills should be our goal: putting them at the centre of the stage. Once you’ve been to WWIEF it will always spark something in your own mind and the platform it provides to share your own ideas is like no other.
My advice to teachers attending WWIEF for the first time this year is to put the competition side of this forum to one side and really focus on connecting with some of the most amazing teachers they will ever meet. Look for ways to feel inspired and don’t go home and keep it all to yourself: take what you have seen and inspire other teachers in your own communities who weren’t here. Together, we can bring exciting new ways of teaching to the classroom and create unique experiences for learners and educators alike.
Microsoft recently released its 2010 Annual Report, and this week, we also released our Microsoft 2010 Citizenship Report.
The 2010 Microsoft Citizenship Report offers insight on Microsoft’s approach and outlook on economic, social, and environmental issues, as well as reporting on progress. How we conduct ourselves and our business is as important as delivering quality products and services. Our Citizenship goals and performance are a reflection of how we hold ourselves accountable as a global corporate citizen. Read more our sister blog Microsoft on the Issues.
Posted by Cheick DiarraChairman for Africa
It was with great interest that I recently read an opinion article in the Financial Times on How Africa can become the next Bric, authored by Jim O’Neill, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, who originally coined the ‘Brics’ acronym. I am delighted to see that Africa’s potential is being likened to that of the other big emerging growth markets.
The article lists a number of ‘micro components’ that must be addressed in order for African countries to improve their growth prospects (stability of law and government, improving education, spreading the use of mobile phones and internet), but I would like to add that fundamental to this analysis is the necessary investment in technology infrastructure to make this all happen.
The common connective glue in this development equation is technology – and much more so than in growing the use of mobile phones and internet. In recent years Africa’s people have become much more digitally aware, especially decision makers within Government, and I believe that technology will continue to be an important catalyst to help governments serve their citizens more effectively by helping to address their security, reliability and regulatory challenges. Technology also leads to increased jobs and business development, broadening social and economic opportunities for Africa’s citizens. But first and foremost, it is important to note that increasing connectivity or distributing computers and software will have limited impact on development without investment in Africa’s most important resource – its people. Expanding educational opportunities and digital literacy in communities is critical to enabling people to harness the opportunities that technology can offer.
The private sector has a critical role to play here – partnerships between the private and public sector are essential for creating and sustaining growth and development, enabling more effective programme development and delivery through the sharing of mutual experience. Microsoft is already engaging in high impact public private-partnerships to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of national institutions and their development partners here in Africa. If we work in partnership to provide the right infrastructures and the right opportunities and access to skills and knowledge to support the creation of wealth and sustainable growth, then the citizens of Africa will do the rest. If we work together, we can lay the foundations for a new African Bric in the wall.
Posted by Hennie Loubser Regional General Manager for West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
I recently attended CIO Africa Summit in Nairobi, where African ICT professionals gathered to discuss Africa’s IT opportunities and challenges. One of this year’s clear focus areas was the developing potential of the cloud.
Microsoft has invested heavily in cloud computing for over a decade — 70 percent of our 40,000 R&D engineers work on cloud based solutions, and this will rise. We already run some of Africa’s largest cloud services, like Hotmail and Windows LIVE.
The cloud needs bandwidth, and Africa is ready to deliver. Undersea telecommunications cable projects such as WACS, ACE and SEACOM are helping to drive better and more affordable bandwidth access. In addition, because Africa is free from the legacy of established and aging telecommunications infrastructures, it enjoys world-class GSM networks, and operators are making further investment to improve services.
Seizing the opportunities of the cloud brings African governments and businesses three core benefits:
• Cost: With immediate access to the world’s latest ICT technologies, implementation costs can be reduced and IT budgets used more efficiently, as customers now pay for what they use.
• Manageability: The continent is a huge territory with some areas that are difficult to access. The cloud will increase the speed to market through simpler implementation, irrespective of geographic location, while maintaining high security standards.
• Productivity: With access to the cloud available from any location, users will experience a number of productivity benefits, including use of the latest software, increased internet collaboration and instant self-provisioning.
In Ethiopia, for example, the government saved 80 percent in operating expenses by using a cloud-based solution from a Microsoft partner to support the roll-out of over 250,000 laptops to schools.
Before businesses in Africa can embrace the cloud – the following needs to be considered:
• Companies should use an IT maturity model and fully assess their IT capabilities.
• Thereafter, the first step should be the outsourcing of base capabilities, such as messaging, for which Microsoft offers an off the shelf solution.
In creating an effective ICT environment and working with companies such as Microsoft, Africa is perfectly placed to exploit the economic and social opportunities of the cloud. Microsoft wants to make the cloud a reality in Africa. We will continue to help the citizens of west, east and central Africa to implement technology that achieves results. To this end, we are partnering with businesses, governments and developers on the cloud journey into Africa.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that in conjunction with International Literacy Day it is launching a new portal for supporting and promoting literacy efforts globally. The portal, called the Knowledge an Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) has been supported by Microsoft and Verizon.
Read more about how this new portal is intended to be a global workplace where literacy researchers and workers can connect, share information and discuss literacy in English, Spanish and French on our sister blog Microsoft on the Issues.
Posted by Zeid ShubailatEducation Director, Microsoft Middle East and Africa
Last week, nearly 100 educators, experts and school administrators gathered in Mombasa, Kenya for the third annual Pan-African Innovative Education Forum. We thank our generous hosts and partners at the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, who held three days of interactive workshops, teacher exhibitions and judging on their school grounds so that we could share and debate the latest best practices in teaching.
We were inspired by the motivation and excitement of the teachers who stayed up late refining their exhibition projects, while the school administrators in attendance led the way with their dedication to finding new ways of improving their schools’ teaching methodologies and learning environments.
At the event’s closing ceremony on August 26 where over 15 countries in Africa were represented, we took the opportunity to recognise and reward the teachers that had demonstrated the most exemplary uses of technology in the classroom to improve student learning.
The regional “Best Practice” winners of the 2010 Innovative Teacher Awards at the Pan-African Innovative Education Forum were:
These award-winning teachers, as well as the first and second runners up in each category, will go on to represent Africa at the sixth annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum on 26-29 October 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Held for the first time on the continent, the Worldwide Forum will host approximately 150 teachers from over 100 countries to share ideas and best practices with their peers.
If last year’s Forum hosted in Brazil is anything to go by, we have a great deal of dialogue and debate about the most pressing issues in 21st century education to look forward to. More importantly, the educators involved have a great many solutions to share.
Posted by Hennie LoubserRegional General Manager for West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
Language preservation is a familiar debate for many government leaders, policymakers and humanitarians searching for development solutions in Africa. With their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, and education, languages are the vital, but fragile, ties that can bind cultures, economies or countries. Yet UNESCO estimates that half of the 6,700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends. We believe technology has an increasingly important role to play in the maintenance of linguistic diversity, not only to promote mutual understanding and dialogue, but also to strengthen local economies. All too often communities are excluded from IT skills fluency, and the accompanying job opportunities, for lack of technology in their local language. Through the Microsoft Local Language Program, we are committed to supporting our software in as many languages as possible in cooperation with governments and communities around the world. Currently our Windows and Office products are available in 15 written and spoken languages in Africa:
That means Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office are available in the first and/or second language of the majority of Africa’s 1 billion people.
So, how do we do this? Hard work and strong partnerships is the short answer.
The longer answer begins with a glossary. We create a glossary in cooperation with local governments, universities, language experts, and others to standardize technical terminology in a local language. The terminology collected in the glossary acts as the basis for the development of an application we call a Language Interface Pack (LIP). This LIP enables you to install a local language version as a "skin" on top of an existing installation of the Windows operating system and standard Microsoft Office system applications. And finally, we support the local IT ecosystem by helping developers build solutions on top of the LIPs, such as spell checkers, translation dictionaries, screen savers, collaboration tools, and online services. When completed, the LIP is available as a free download or distributed by the local government.
Over the last five years, we have worked with partners across the continent to bring local languages to life.
For example, in Nigeria, we partnered with the government to make Microsoft Windows Vista available in three of the country’s most widely spoken languages: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Alhassan Zaku, called the 2009 release, “A turning point in the history of technology in our beloved country. This initiative is a long-awaited vehicle that will take the benefits of ICT to people at grassroots level in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. It also represents a breakthrough in Nigerian linguistic and literary studies.”
In South Africa, we are fortunate to have a number of Local Language Program partners, but one innovative example comes from the Siyafunda Community Technology Centres in the Gauteng province. By using the Setswana and isiZulu LIPs, these centres are now able to offer their computer literacy training in the local vernacular for members of the rural community.
There are hundreds of similar examples across the world. To add your voice, please visit the Microsoft Local Language Program Web site.
Posted by Aben KovoorDirector of Developer & Platform Ecosystem Group, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft
It’s amazing how a little imagination and forward thinking can change the world. Where would we be today without advances in medicine like the MRI, technology like PCs and the Internet, or communication devices like cell phones?
To help cultivate creativity from around the globe, Microsoft annually hosts the Imagine Cup, a student technology competition created to showcase innovative ideas that can change the world. The 2010 event has just recently concluded; where more than 100 countries competed in Warsaw, Poland. This year’s theme was to imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.
Looking over the innovative solutions created by our three African finalists, it is indeed easy to see the new perspective that students can bring to the world:
While we are inspired by the student projects at Imagine Cup, we should also use that inspiration to spark discussion on serious issues like education and skills across Africa. Education is the cornerstone of economic opportunity, so any efforts to help young people realize their full potential must begin there. For Sub-Saharan Africa’s 800 million people, especially the 500 million who are under 30 years old, enhancing education is vital if the continent is to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
When talking to national leaders we find a common theme around their wish to create diverse economies based on knowledge and with a global reach. The wish is to create doctors, engineers, scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, publishers, and the vast range of specialists who are needed to accelerate economic development.
Working towards achieving this needs efficient, diverse, and flexible learning programmes that go beyond addressing basic literacy to provide access to specialist knowledge and learning infrastructures, to help overcome the shortages of qualified teachers, and to forge learning communities that can share knowledge on a local, regional, and global scale.
This is why ICT has a special role to play in education - an objective that Microsoft has supported for several years, engaging with governments, educators, IGOs and NGOs across Africa to increase access to technology that can improve the quality of teaching as well as the learning experience for students of all ages – literally shaping the way education happens. In Uganda we have partnered with the Government to equip more than 200,000 teachers with computer skills, helping to improve learning through the use of technology in schools. The project also sees technology subjects integrated into the school curriculum from primary school to university level.
Implementing national education e-strategies is challenging in most countries and Africa faces specific and profound economic, geographic and infrastructure issues. We are involved to help break down barriers in access to education through effective education technology tools.
There is a lot of talk about the arrival of the undersea cable. It is frequently described as connecting Africa to the rest of the world. I like to look at it a little differently. I think of it as providing a pathway to a new and dynamic future for Africa, where education and skills development can be accessed easily by all and where young people will be able to develop groundbreaking software for Africa. But there are a number of factors that need to be in place for this to be effective. Models derived from countries that are ICT and bandwidth rich cannot be replicated in Africa, and nor should they. Africa has its own needs and aspirations and any use of ICT should be adapted to help developing the society each country aspires to.
Posted by Cheick Diarra (Chairman for Africa) and Mteto Nyati (Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa)
FIFA is still completing their official evaluation report of the host country for the 2010 World Cup, but we know South Africa shared a victory with Spain on the night of July 10th by raising Africa's profile in the international community as a proud, hopeful, and increasingly stable continent. Moreover, we were thrilled to see that technology in all its forms played a major role in the month-long event’s success and wide-spread acclaim.
We have watched the South African government, FIFA, and the industry at large make huge investments in technology over the last six years in order to bring the 2010 World Cup to as broad an audience as possible. For example, for the first time, technology allowed fans from across the globe to determine the Man-of-the-Match awards for the 2010 World Cup via Web and SMS technology. Visually-impaired fans were able to enjoy soccer like everyone else during the 2010 World Cup thanks to an Audio Description project that provided the visually impaired with small receivers with inner-ear headphones for 44 matches. FIFA itself charted seven billion page views of its site FIFA.com, 410 million of those page views were recorded in a single day!
Among our partners and customers, we were especially proud to see the Official IT Services Provider to FIFA, Mahindra Satyam, run a world-class, Microsoft-based IT system that delivered a Ticketing, Accreditation, Transportation, Volunteer, Space and Material management solution that assured a safe and secure event for over 230,000 World Cup delegates, staff and volunteers.
But more significantly, we recognize the 2010 World Cup's longer term social impact.
South Africa Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was interviewed recently in the McKinsey Quarterly, saying that, “Sporting events such as the World Cup always serve to cement the sense of belonging, the sense of being one nation."
On behalf of Microsoft’s 88,000 employees around the world, we want to say ‘Thank you, South Africa, for leading the way!’
Two weeks ago I had the honor of participating in the third African ICT Best Practices Forum in Burkina Faso, where I met with government leaders from across Africa to discuss one of the most pressing issues in public sector ICT right now: cyber security.
As Internet penetration increases across the continent, so does the risk of sophisticated cyber attacks, threatening African nations’ security, infrastructure, economic growth and citizen services. Microsoft detected over 126 million samples of malware worldwide in the second half of 2009 alone, an increase of 8.9% over the first half of the year. Worse still is the association of cybercrime with Africa, where such countries as Nigeria have become synonymous with advance fee fraud or “419” scams. The cybercriminals who pose as government “officials” requesting assistance in exchange for advance payments undermine the trust as well as the freedom of a healthy Internet economy.
At Microsoft, we believe our ability to retain the confidence of ICT adopters in both government and society rests on three urgent areas of intervention against cyber threats in Africa, and around the world:
While these three principles provide a practical framework for the development of government's effective cyber security policies, we are also working closely with law enforcement to combat cybercrime. Microsoft is looking forward to joining the Economic and Financial Crime Commission of Nigeria, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Council of Europe, Serious Crime Organisation, Interpol, and other members of the ICT industry at the West Africa Cybercrime Summit in Nigeria in October 2010, where we hope to take the best practices outlined in Burkina Faso a step further by developing multi-lateral commitments to put an end to cybercrime.
Posted by Mteto NyatiManaging Director, Microsoft South Africa
Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is an initiative launched by the South African Government to address the restrictions that exist within the country for Black individuals to participate fairly in the economy. As part of its BBBEE programme, Microsoft is to invest R472 million - as well as skills, time, knowledge and best practices - to build several sustainable, independent majority black-owned software companies over the next seven years in South Africa.
We didn’t really need to be told by The Economist, of all publications, that black economic empowerment has been less than a resounding success in South Africa (http://www.economist.com/world/middle-east/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15824024).
We already knew that. As the article points out, even President Zuma seems to agree that BEE has resulted in a small core of super-rich black people who benefit from most BEE deals, while the intended beneficiaries – the millions of black people excluded from the mainstream economy by the apartheid government – have once again been left out in the cold.
Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, says the country can only be transformed if empowerment plays its rightful role in business. Empowerment is not just a financial hand-out: it’s a vehicle for giving people the skills they need to make their way in business.
That’s why I’m particularly proud of the equity equivalence deal announced by my company, Microsoft SA, on 23 April. In short, we’re going to choose between five and ten small, black-owned software development companies, and pour a good deal of time, energy and resources into helping them become decent-sized companies that can stand independently on a global stage.
The highlight of this deal is not the amount of money that we intend to spend, although at half a billion rand, it’s not insignificant.
For me, what makes this deal different is a few things. One, there’s not a usual suspect in sight. This is not a box-ticking exercise. We’re not selecting these companies because of what they currently do, but because of what we believe they can become. We believe that if we pick good people, they will find their niche. We want to give smart people the break they need to fly.
Two, it’s got the potential to create an entirely model of entrepreneurship in this country. We’re looking to build businesses here.
Three, it’s going to create skills and jobs in a sector – and an economy – crying out for them. The country faces a significant shortage of technology skills, as well as chronic unemployment. This investment will tackle both by building a sustainable, black-owned technology ecosystem.
And four, it’s unique in that we’re not just throwing money at a generic problem, but backing it up with expertise, support and mentorship. In other words, we’re putting some real skin in the game here.
Obviously, there will be the cynics. There have been too many BEE false starts for people to be entirely convinced. But the fact is that this deal, at its heart, is a good business deal. The impetus for Microsoft is to be more locally relevant, and locally responsible in terms of social investment and BEE. Relevance and responsibility are critical aspects of being a local, committed corporate citizen, and this investment underlines our intention in a big way.
While development is key, we are balancing this with the commercial opportunities for all involved. The companies that grow out of this investment, and the software that they develop, will help Microsoft and its partners reach new markets. The investment should galvanise the local software economy and leave a legacy for other entrepreneurs.
Posted by Cheick DiarraChairman for Africa Microsoft Corp
Welcome all to the new Microsoft on the Issues Africa blog where leaders from across our company – as well as key industry partners - will be discussing the role of ICT as a driver of Africa’s development. It is the tool that will help and drive moving African citizens out of poverty, by supporting the creation of wealth and sustainable growth in the region. We can only do this, however, if we, in Africa, create the right policy environment, invest in the necessary infrastructure and act decisively and in a timely manner.
Investment is an integral part of the process, as we need to ensure that the local economy has the right financial infrastructure model in place to be able to effectively drive business capabilities. Of late, organisations such as L’Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires (OHADA) have recognised how consistent policy making and legal structuring are crucial in establishing congruent, stable development and economic growth.
In addition to this, we at Microsoft are actively championing regional support of and attendance at meetings such as the Africa Union (AU) Summit, and the EU Africa Business Forum, which provide the opportunity to communicate the importance of ICT to Africa’s growth potential, to develop key business partnerships and to discuss ways in which companies can leverage ICT to overcome the barriers to trade and investment that they currently face.
Through all of this, Africa’s greatest resource is its people. It is an untapped reserve of one billion people, 60% of whom are under 30 – with huge potential to transform the continent towards prosperity if the right tools, knowledge, structures and policies are put in place. For Microsoft, this means delivering access to the relevant ICT tools, technology and hardware by partnering with other organisations and governments, both regionally and internationally, to facilitate entrepreneurship and business growth through sharing information, best practices and skills.
What is clear is that technology is going to play a long-lasting and meaningful role in addressing many of Africa’s challenges and that Microsoft, through working both with partners and independently, is committed to playing a key role in making this happen by taking advantage of the untold possibilities and untapped potential for wealth creation. If we work in partnership to provide the right infrastructures and the right opportunities then the citizens of Africa will do the rest.
I look forward to hearing your feedback and encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this subject.
Posted by Ali FaramawyVP Middle East and Africa, Microsoft
When Microsoft opened its first office in Africa in 1992, computers were a rarity and the majority of users either worked in multinational companies or at very senior government levels. Since then, we’ve seen IT play a crucial role in transforming Africa and its impact can now be seen at every level of society by empowering governments, businesses and people throughout the continent.
Throughout the last 18 years, Microsoft has become increasingly more active in contributing to Africa’s IT journey. Today, we have 600 full-time staff and developed over 17,000 partners from Alexandria to Cape Town. We have been working with our partners on the ground and listening to the voice of the local people in order to encourage their own remarkable entrepreneurial spirit towards the potential for ICT to transform society for future generations to come.
Today I’d like to invite you to participate in the next step of our commitment to Africa’s development journey by introducing the launch of a dedicated Africa portal. It will serve as an active communication forum to highlight the immense impact ICT is having on Africa and its people. Built on the success of “Microsoft on the Issues” launched by our colleagues in Seattle last year as well as the growth of the African blogging community, the “Microsoft On the Issues: Africa” blog will showcase the work that Microsoft and its partners are doing to help the continent thrive and grow. It will serve as a forum to discuss how we can best harness African innovation to help the continent advance to the next stage of development. This platform should also strengthen participation in wider discussions that support policy formulation to encourage an environment that welcomes the benefits of ICT.
I’m truly looking forward to the launch of this portal as a platform for discussion and an open forum for debate. It is a place for ideas and experiences to be shared with one another with the aim of promoting even better solutions to help accelerate Africa’s development journey. I strongly encourage you to share your own valuable experiences and unique perspectives by adding comments to the various posts and articles that will appear over the coming months.
To officially launch the blog, I would like to welcome our African chairman, Cheick Diarra, who will be discussing how successful partnerships are driving ICT in Africa. I hope that you will take the time to read and reflect on his valuable insights. Thank you in advance for your support and input and I look forward to reading your own thoughtful comments on our new “Microsoft On the Issues: Africa” blog.