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Posted by Mteto Nyati Managing Director, Microsoft South AfricaMicrosoft South Africa has just received the nod from the South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry indicating that it is now a Level 2 Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) contributor. What this really means, is that the local subsidiary of the software company is the most locally relevant multinational IT company operating in South Africa (SA).There is no other multinational that has yet shown this level of commitment to the restitution of past inequalities in SA’s business landscape, and it’s a great differentiator to government and to Microsoft’s trusted local partners, vendors and service providers. What’s great about this for Microsoft – which does business with 7,500 partner companies and service providers in SA – is that these Government agencies and businesses make themselves more compliant and more empowered in the process – as BEE in South Africa is designed to have exactly such a knock-on effect, to inspire participation in the programme. This network is already a major catalyst of economic growth and opportunity in South Africa, driving dynamic solutions for our customers, and jobs and opportunities throughout the industry. With the additional 20 points Microsoft SA received for our Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) equity equivalent programme, the company has even risen above the level of BEE participation of the top empowered companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This illustrates our attitude towards investing into empowerment in South Africa – and also supports my views as leader of the local business –by being entrenched in the issues that drive South Africa’s government and business landscape, and by doing all we can to create a vibrant local software economy, Microsoft in South Africa can have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the nation’s citizens.While BEE in South Africa has in many cases become a contentious issue, Microsoft has shown that by doing it differently, it is possible to follow not only the letter of the law, but to follow the intent – economic and social development.Microsoft SA has already announced the names of four sustainable, independent and majority black-owned software companies that Microsoft SA will nurture and support under the equity equivalent programme, so that their solutions can compete on the world software service market. On 10 June 2011, we furthered our commitment by opening a second public request for proposals (RFPs) – as Microsoft SA would like to take a few additional majority black owned Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) on this journey to international competitiveness as part of our half a billion rand (USD 57.9m) upliftment programme.Our relationship with the South African government has been further strengthened by the commitment we have shown to assisting where we can with the local priorities, of which education, skills and job creation are some of the most key to lifting the country out of a possible service delivery crisis.I am of the school that believes software and other technologies, when properly used, can transform lives. Over nearly 20 years, we’ve aligned our programmes and investments in South Africa to support economic development, social advancement and greater dynamism in the local software ecosystem.Microsoft has been running various programmes to make the world of computers more accessible and affordable for the majority of South Africans – and to unlock the potential of individuals, institutions and academia, NGOs, businesses and government entities by knowing how to use technology to its ultimate ability.Our citizenship commitments include transforming local education, fostering local innovation, and creating jobs and opportunities – giving new hope to people with disabilities, enhancing the country’s education system, helping communities bridge the digital divide, supporting entrepreneurial ventures in many industries, and helping thousands of young graduates and school-leavers to develop skills and find good jobs.To achieve all of these objectives, our Citizenship programme managers partner with local NGOs, government departments and service providers to reach and enrich the lives of hundreds of thousands of teachers, learners, students, graduate interns, SMEs, disadvantaged communities, differently-abled citizens and government employees each year. For a look at our Citizenship Report of 2009-10, please have a look at http://www.microsoft.com/southafrica/citizenship/index.html. Through the success of the BBBEE programme over time, the market will grow to associate Black Economic Empowerment with real entrepreneurship, job creation, enterprise development and skills enhancement. This makes me sleep better at night – knowing that I – as a black South African working for a multinational technology leader, can make a difference in my country through the work that we do.
By: Marc Israel, Office Division Group Lead for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
To celebrate the availability of Office 2013 in Microsoft West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Microsoft is giving away 12-month Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions.
Office 365 Home Premium, one of the offerings within Office 2013, is a cloud service designed for busy households and people juggling ever-increasing work and family responsibilities. The new offering includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications; works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs; and comes with extra SkyDrive storage and Skype calling — all for US$79.00 for an annual subscription, the equivalent of less than US$7.00 per month.
To enter, simply follow @MicrosoftAfrica on Twitter, tell us what you can buy for $7 per month and stand to win a 12-month license key for Microsoft’s #Office365 Home Premium – Office for your whole household, across the devices you love.
Terms and conditions below.
By participating in our Twitter Competition, you fully agree and accept the Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Competition Terms and Conditions ("Terms and Conditions") and you agree to be bound by them. You also agree to abide by the terms and conditions of any third party website or service where the competition is hosted, if any. In these Terms and Conditions, "Microsoft", "we", "our", and "us" refer to Microsoft Nigeria Limited. "You," "yourself" refers to an eligible Twitter competition entrant. “The Promoter” is Microsoft Nigeria Limited, For the purposes hereof, “Territory” shall mean: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti , Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, French Polynesia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, New Caledonia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, St. Helena, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Posted by John Nielsen
GM, EMEA Customer Service and Support
Around this time last year, I accompanied a team of ten Microsoft engineers from the EMEA Customer Service and Support team to Blantyre in Malawi to help launch the Malawi Learning Partnership. We installed a network to connect four schools to allow teachers, students and partners to collaborate and enhance education in Malawi.
The impact the trip had on us, and the huge difference we realised we could make in just over one week, led us to return this year to provide more support to the Malawi Learning Partnership and schools in Blantyre. The team set up IT labs, fixed computers, conducted DigiGirlz workshops, and trained 23 teachers, working tirelessly every day to make sure they reached as many schools as possible. They found solutions to new challenges, were inspired by some of the amazing stories they encountered, and all returned home with a slightly different perspective on life.
23 teachers from 13 different schools were trained on how to set up their own school IT labs, basic troubleshooting and computer maintenance
A few things in particular stood out for me this year:
1. The astonishing pace at which children learn: We all know that children have an enormous capacity to learn, far outweighing that of adults. But, time and time again I am surprised at just how much a child can learn in a short space of time. At one of the DigiGirlz events we held this year for girls from the rural area of Chikwawa, we saw young girls who had never even seen a computer before learning how to use one and put together their own CVs - in just one day.
The DigiGirlz session held at Fishermen's Rest for girls from Chikwawa
2. The power of partnership: We brought 13 of our top engineers from across the world to bring their valuable expertise to help with training and networking for the Malawi Learning Partnership. But without the support of other partners, like St Andrews’ International School, Access Communications, and The Malawi WiFi Project - these kinds of projects would simply not be possible. We also donated 40 laptops to two schools in Malawi to help them expand their computer labs – but it will be our partners providing WiFi and 3Gconnectivity, as well as the teachers, who we rely on to make sure that our donation makes the biggest impact possible in these schools.
3. Excitement is as important as infrastructure: Setting up IT labs and connecting schools is important but unless we build excitement around technology, Malawi will never have enough technology-skilled people to help drive the economy forward. Motivating teachers, showing children what they can create with technology, and giving them the confidence to use computers are important ways of giving young people a glimpse of how technology can positively impact their future. We reached over 120 girls during our seven DigiGirlz events in Malawi in an effort to give young girls a taste of the type of jobs they can pursue in the technology industry.
One of the girls at the DigiGirlz workshop at Samaritans Trust
And lastly, the non-tech focused part of our trip reminded us once again how the simplest measures can change lives. We saw this first hand when we visited the 10 boreholes the team had raised money to build and repair in the southern region of Malawi, TA Mphuka. Through our efforts to raise money through friends, family and colleagues, we have ensured that 2500 people will have access to clean water.
For more pictures and videos of our journey in Malawi, take a look at the Microsoft EMEA CSS: Malawi 2.0 Facebook page.
Guest Post By Claire Ighodaro CBEIndependent Director, British Council
As a British Council Trustee, I was proud to announce a new international education and training partnership with Microsoft this morning, at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum 2011 in Washington DC.
The partnership with Microsoft is a perfect match, as it aligns with the British Council’s core mission: to build trust and create opportunities. We do 'soft power', to use Joseph Nye's phrase, and we do it on a vast scale, operating in 110 countries and 191 cities across the globe. In fact, we were recently described in the Huffington Post as 'probably the world's best cultural diplomacy agency.'
The first project in this new partnership will provide teachers and learners across Africa with the skills they need to live and work in a global economy. I have seen firsthand the British Council's education programmes in Africa, and the results of their investment are extraordinary. So I am delighted that the first project in the new British Council - Microsoft partnership will happen in Africa, where we have the experience and connections to work effectively with educators and leaders on the ground to really make a difference.
At the British Council, we work in three areas: English, Arts, and Education and Society. In terms of our reach and impact, we're the world's leading cultural relations organization. Last year our work engaged more than 30 million people worldwide, and we reached almost 600 million people through digital and broadcast media - approaching one in ten of the earth's people.
Those numbers are large, but here is an even bigger statistic: three billion people today are under 25. Our common future depends on releasing their potential. This is what is at the heart of our new partnership. We cannot predict what's ahead, but we know that tomorrow's world will be complex and fast-changing, and that there will be major challenges ahead.
According to the International Labor Organization, 160 million people worldwide are unemployed. That includes 64 million young people. And yet there is also a huge and growing shortage of people with the skills that the 21st century requires. Global connectivity is rapidly transforming the world, as online and mobile technologies converge. By 2014, there will be 6.5 billion mobile subscribers. That's more than 90% of the world's entire population. This new world demands a whole new set of skills.
We need outstanding, energetic young people with the skills to navigate this complex landscape. Alongside competence with IT, they will need superb communication and teamwork skills to understand and work with people in their schools and communities. And just as importantly, they will need the skills to reach out and work with people on the other side of the world.
Where do we begin to address these issues? We believe the answer is through partnerships. We cannot do this alone. We must develop creative new alliances to address our common future, with states, businesses, educational organisations and individuals.
Our two organizations have complementary expertise in technology, education and cultural relations. Our joint expertise forms a solid foundation for a productive, sustainable alliance.
Technology is a tool that, when well used, can improve teaching and learning. But technology is just one piece of a larger solution, supported by progressive national education policies, professional development for educators, and innovations led by teachers on the ground.
This project is not just about wiring schools. It is about ensuring that young people in their communities are equipped with skills that will serve them throughout their lives: leadership, self-confidence, creativity, ambition, and a desire to connect and contribute to the wider world.
Claire Ighodaro CBE is a Board member, Non-executive Director and Audit Committee Chair of Lloyd’s of London, the UK’s Lending Standards Board and the British Council. She is also a Council Member of the Open University and a Past President of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
Posted by Dele Akinsade, Developer and Platform Evangelist, West, East and Central Africa
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein
Marking Imagine Cup’s ten-year anniversary in 2012, Microsoft is celebrating the 1.4 million (and counting!) students who have participated in the world’s premier technology competition. By focusing on student-led solutions to the world’s toughest problems, Imagine Cup has brought to light some of the most groundbreaking and creative approaches to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, including last year’s People Choice Award finalists from Nigeria, Team Nerd, who developed an innovative remote healthcare app for doctors and patients.
The participation of African teams in the competition has increased steadily over the years. This year, registrations in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by 197% compared to 2011, and the number of competitors grew by 64% year on year.
With this kind of momentum, we are especially proud of the five teams representing Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, when students from universities in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda will travel to Sydney, Australia to compete in this year’s worldwide finals in July. Their entries for practical use in both the public and private sector represent the brightest young minds of Africa.
Please join us in following and supporting these talented African developers on their road to Imagine Cup 2012! • Team E-Soft, from the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët Boigny de Yamoussoukro in Côte d’Ivoire, has developed a real- time monitoring solution for environmental threats in industrial areas. As evidence of the growing need to monitor the impact of industrial development on local communities, Team E-Soft has already secured partnership funding from the World Bank and Ministry of Energy to test their “Evolve Safely” solution in Cote d’Ivoire.
• Team Gravity, from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, has concentrated on a common problem in both urban and rural areas of Africa, with a healthcare solution called “SwiftER,” that aims to improve the rate and quality of response from medical and security providers in the event of an emergency.
• Team Sen Section, from the Universite Cheikh in Senegal, has focused on making development and aid agencies more efficient by developing a mobile app, called “Tataane,” that allows fieldworkers to collect data and surveys that automatically updates the home office database. Pan-African NGOs such as Africa Rice are already preparing to use the mobile app in their agricultural research in rural areas.
• Team Asclepius, from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, has developed an image processing application, which helps radiologist detect signs of tuberculosis at an early stage. Particularly in South Africa where tuberculosis has one of the highest infection rates in the world, early diagnosis is critical to the success of medical treatments available to rural and underdeveloped communities.
• Team Cipher256, from Makerere University in Uganda, has connected Windows Phone to Windows Azure with an application that aids midwives in their diagnoses for expectant mothers. Using an algorithm that converts the Frequency (Hertz) to Beats Per minute of the fetus, measures the fetus’ position in the uterus and calculates the fetus’ age, this app “WIN-SENGA” can help detect an ectopic pregnancy or abnormal fetal heart beats.
We wish these teams the best of luck in Sydney. We will be cheering you on from Facebook and Twitter!
Posted by Werner Wilders OEM / Retail and Consumer Director for Microsoft West, East Central Africa
When it comes to technology, standing still is falling behind. The rate at which technology changes is so fast and its implications for business so enormous that any lag behind the latest updates and functionality can directly equate to lost potential. That’s why we continue to urge our customers to install the latest updates and why we provide a range of free tools to enhance the performance of their software.
Making ‘free’ really mean free
Consumers can download the latest security solutions, media tools, themes, Internet Explorer 9 and service updates for Windows 7 at Microsoft.com, for free. But for many consumers in Africa, just because something is ‘free’ online, doesn’t mean obtaining it is necessarily affordable or convenient. The high cost of bandwidth on the continent means that to download antivirus software in West, East and Central African countries for example, you’ll pay anything from $25 to $40; add this to limited and unreliable internet accessibility and it is understandable why so many consumers don’t download ‘free’ tools made available online.
To address this, we’ve developed the ‘Africa Pack’ – a suite of popular Microsoft technologies and locally-relevant content in DVD format. It’s free to consumers across Africa who purchase or currently run a genuine version of Windows 7, and is available to Microsoft partners to distribute with new PCs that are preinstalled with, or bundled with locally attached copies of genuine Windows. We hope that by making this content available offline, we’ll save our customers time and money, and ensure the very latest Microsoft technologies are easily accessible to them.
One of the key technologies included in the Africa Pack offering is Security Essentials. Having the latest security technology is becoming critical amid the ever-increasing plethora of malicious software that can harm your PC or target private information. We don’t want our consumers to put themselves or their families at risk by delaying security updates because of slow download speeds or cost. Now, with Africa Pack, we are ensuring that every user who has a genuine copy of Windows 7 will have access to free antivirus software to protect their computer.
(Locally relevant) Content is King
We’ve often spoken about our commitment to our Local Language Program. We believe in the benefit of learning in one’s first language as well as the importance of keeping local languages alive by ensuring they remain relevant and continue to evolve. So our Africa Pack, available in English and French, also contains local language interface (LIP) packs for the most widely spoken languages in Africa: KiSwahili, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and Amharic. The first edition of the Microsoft Africa Pack includes: Microsoft Security Essentials; Windows Live Essentials; Africa Theme Pack (desktop wallpapers and themes to customize your PC); Local Language Interface Packs (LIPs); Internet Explorer 9 and Windows 7 Service Pack 1.
Guest Post by Josh LeibsteinStudent and Imagine Cup finalist
When I developed the computer-aided detection programme to identify tuberculosis at an early stage, I never imagined it would lead to winning first prize at Microsoft’s South Africa leg of the Imagine Cup. The competition was tough as there were many great projects – all of them meeting this year’s criteria, which was ‘Solving the World’s Toughest Problems’!
It all started a couple of years ago when I overheard my fellow University of Johannesburg students discuss their Imagine Cup entries. It intrigued me. Immediately, I was inspired by the extent of their creativity and that their projects actually had the potential to address real-life issues. And I thought – hey, I can do that too!
Under the guidance of my honours project mentor, Mr Duncan Coulter, I started working on an image processing application. The great results of the project turned out to defy even my biggest expectations, as I realised it could be applied to help solve a serious problem. Mr Coulter was instrumental from initial design through to the final implementation. His general guidance, feature suggestions and design ideas were incredible.
The project started out as an application that statistically analyses the texture properties of arbitrary images such as tiles, clothing or paper. Using that data, I found areas that are similar to other given samples. Once I was able to identify and analyse those types of textures, I observed the merits of applying it to more complex textures, such as those that need to be analysed in the early detection of tuberculosis.
I realised the imaging system would be perfect in assisting a radiologist in identifying areas that have a high probability of containing tuberculosis structures as result of their texture properties.
Tuberculosis is an endemic disease affecting South Africa on so many levels, socially and economically, and it made sense to me to expand my thinking to try and address this issue. The results so far have been quite promising. As it turned out my project fit perfectly into the theme of the Imagine Cup.
What’s more, I get to represent my country and pick the innovative brains of like-minded fellow contestants at the Imagine Cup in Sydney later this year.
Innovation in South Africa is at such a promising stage, especially among the youth. We have many talented up-and-coming developers. Competitions like Imagine Cup gives them an awesome opportunity to produce great ideas for the future – possibly even "the next big thing". The projects showcased at the last national Imagine Cup finals demonstrated this.
With the right mindset our students can compete with anyone in the world. But we have to overcome this notion of trying to imitate ideas from the USA and other countries. We as South Africans have our own style and we use technologies that give us a unique edge. Individuals should be encouraged by business and government alike to create cutting edge solutions, rather than take the safe option.
My view is that as our students move into industry, this attitude will hopefully filter through to the public and private sectors, making South Africa a top competitor globally.
As for my own dreams – I will continue development of the project as part of my master's thesis and hopefully the system can undergo field trials in the not too distant future. The potential for this research to assist so many people is a great motivator. If the system can help stem the tide of a rampant TB epidemic in our country, it will all be worthwhile.
Posted by Robert Kayihura Director - Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
Microsoft understands the importance of small and medium businesses (SMBs) to Africa’s economy, which is why in November we launched Keep Your Business Moving. This online program is designed to provide advice to SMB owners as well as the budding entrepreneurs that are key to Africa’s economic future – and as we enter 2013, that future looks very bright.
With a 5.3% increase in GDP expected in 2013, sub-Saharan Africa’s economy is booming. It’s been largely exempt from many of the economic factors affecting much of the Western world, meaning it’s increasingly attractive to outside investors. However, it’s worth noting that the real clout of Africa’s economy comes from SMBs, which account for 50% of African employment and add 20% to the continent’s GDP.
Running an SMB is challenging anywhere in the world, but doing so in Africa means facing up to a unique set of challenges. From a computing point of view, the top three barriers to entry are prohibitively expensive hardware, inaccessible software and, most importantly of all, a non-existent or nascent IT and broadband infrastructure – but Microsoft is committed to help through the provision of innovative solutions and programs like BizSpark and DreamSpark, which provide young businesses, students and Academic institutions with free access to developer tools and platform licenses.
To combat expensive hardware concerns, for example, SMBs can use Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 to virtualize one computer into 10 or more workstations. Not only does this reduce hardware and software costs, but energy consumption and maintenance costs can shrink by 80%. This, combined with a 3G mobile internet connection, allows Africa’s SMBs to conduct business with the rest of the world, even if the landline infrastructure is fragile.
Furthermore, Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps software start-ups to succeed by giving them access to software development tools for free. Again, this gives African SMBs and entrepreneurs the tools they need in order to conduct their business.
Another challenge facing Africa’s digital development is skills – not in having good ideas for businesses, but rather how to develop these ideas using modern digital tools. The solution lies in providing training for people, and the youth in particular, to teach them how to use technologies that many of them have never experienced before.
And when it comes to training and providing access to information and tools, a little can really go a long way – particularly when it comes to young people. During a trip to Malawi last year, for example, my colleagues witnessed how quickly young minds absorb information when they witnessed girls from the rural area of Chikwawa, who had never even seen a computer before, learn how to use one and put together their own CVs - in just one day.
So although there is still much to do before Africa realises its full digital potential, initiatives such as Keep Your Business Moving and BizSpark are already making a difference. And by demonstrating the power of computers and making hardware and software more accessible, we are excited to be playing a part in inspiring the next generation of African entrepreneurs and SMBs.
Posted by Ali Faramawy
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft MiddleEast & Africa
There is an African proverb that reads, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” We couldn’t agree more. Microsoft has been operating in Africa for 20 years, and today we have offices in 14 countries. As we look forward to our next 20 years, we wanted to explore new ways to link the growth of our business with initiatives that spur economic development for the continent. The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise.
This is why today, we are introducing the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, which is designed to help improve Africa’s global competitiveness. Our goal is to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent, and beyond.
By 2016, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative intends to:
- help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth,
- bring 1 million African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) online, and
- help 200 000 Africans develop skills for entrepreneurship and employability. This will include up-skilling 100,000 members of the existing workforce, as well as training 100,000 recent graduates, 75 percent of whom we intend to help place in jobs.
A smart, affordable device
In Africa today, smartphones account for only about 10 percent of total phones in the market. As a first step toward driving the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei today introduced the Huawei 4Afrika phone, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8 preloaded with select applications designed for Africa, by Africans. The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in what will be a series of “4Afrika” smart devices, will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smart phone users to ensure they have affordable access to best-in-class technology, so they can access the information and tools they need to be active global citizens. (See related blog.)
A step closer to connectivity for all
We are also partnering with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet Service Provider Indigo Telecom Ltd. to deliver low-cost, high-speed wireless broadband across Kenya. Using solar-poweredbase stations together with TV white spaces, a technology partially developed by Microsoft Research, this project will deliver high-speed Internet access to areas currently lacking even basic electricity. We aim to implement similarpilots in East and Southern Africa in the coming months to further explore the commercial feasibility of white space technologies. These pilots will be used to encourage other African countries to accelerate legislation that wouldenable this white spaces technology to deliver on the promise of universal access to high-speed wireless Internet for the African continent. (See related blog and video.)
Getting SMEs online
To help these 1 million African SMEs get online, a new online hub will launch in April that will aggregate available, free services from Microsoft and many others which can help SMEs expand their business locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geography, and increase their overall competitiveness. We’re also planning to provide free domain registration for one year for those qualifying SMEs who want to create a professional website. This online hub will initially be available in Morocco and South Africa and will expand to other markets over time.
Developing Africa’s business and thought leaders
The Afrika Academy is another new initiative under the 4Afrika banner aimed specifically at capacity building and skills development. It is an education platform leveraging both online and offline learning tools to help Africans develop both technical and business skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability. Training through the Afrika Academy will be made available starting in March at no cost to higher education students, government elites and the Microsoft partner community.
Why are we doing this now? When we look at the world, many see China or the BRIC countries as the next big opportunity for growth. At Microsoft, we view the African continent as a game-changer in the global economy. We believe deeply in the potential of technology to change Africa, and we equally believe in the potential of Africa to change technology for the world. We are honored to plant this new seed for Africa, and together with our network of partners, we look forward to the next 20 years of growing amazing opportunities for the continent.
For more information, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/4Afrika.
Posted by Fernando de Sousa General manager, Africa Initiatives at Microsoft
This week, Cape Town is hosting the World Economic Forum for Africa (WEF) and I’m lucky enough to be attending. The WEF covers almost 30 different topic areas that together hold the key to Africa’s continued and increased expansion and economic development. The potential for positive change is huge, which is why I’m so excited to be here and to meet likeminded people who have the ideas and energy to help Africa thrive in the digital age.
Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative is itself trying to achieve more for Africa (it’s in the name!). 4Afrika was launched in February with the aim of improving Africa’s global competitiveness through technology. Two of our stated goals are to make affordable smart devices available to Africa’s youth and to test unused TV broadcast radio frequencies (known as ‘white space’ frequencies) to increase Internet access in underserved areas. In February in Kenya, we launched Project Mawingu, our first white spaces project in Africa.
Today, I’m excited to announce another white spaces collaboration aimed at connecting African students and teachers and giving them the opportunity to engage in the global – and borderless – digital dialogue. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, we are working alongside the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and local internet service provider UhuruOne to get tens of thousands of university students and faculty members better connected by installing low-cost wireless broadband access at the University of Dar es Salaam, amongst others, and to provide affordable Windows devices and relevant services. [See press release for more information]
Projects like this are part of our overall 4Afrika strategy to engage in Africa’s development, address youth unemployment, help recent graduates develop skills for employability, and support the development of young software developers and entrepreneurs.
The three principal themes of this year’s WEF Africa are ‘Accelerating Economic Diversification’, ‘Boosting Strategic Infrastructure’ and ‘Unlocking Africa’s Talent’. We believe 4Afrika serves all three of these themes. Hyper-connectivity is vital to the economic and social development of the continent, and improving access through initiatives like 4Afrika will help achieve these critical goals.
We’re proud to say that Microsoft 4Afrika is gaining momentum. Since launch we’ve seen nearly 400 apps created by our AppFactory interns, and we’ve touched more than 1,100 developers through DevCamps in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Tunisia alone. We’ve also trained around 1,100 partners and government leaders across 14 countries through our Afrika Academy. We’re just getting started, so we’re looking forward to the time here at WEF Africa this week to make sure that as a community, we are working together to pursue common goals and to accelerate African competitiveness and innovation.
Posted by Dele Akinsade
Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” – Bill Gates
I am thrilled by the African finalists of this year’s Imagine Cup competition. It’s no secret how innovative African youth are and this year’s winning projects are testament to this. Ten teams from across the continent will be jetting off to St. Petersburg, Russia in June, to compete in the global finals against 120 countries from around the world. In addition to participating in a life-changing event and a chance to win the USD $300, 000 pot prize, our African representatives will have a world stage on which to highlight the role the continent’s local developers play in addressing the most critical issues of the developing world.
You might have heard about our 4Afrika Initiative, which was launched in February this year, and is built on the belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. It’s this idea that makes me so passionate about our local developers and so excited about Imagine Cup. The competition is just one of our many YouthSpark programmes designed to create opportunities for hundreds of millions of youth around the world.
So join me in applauding and supporting the African finalists for the Imagine Cup 2013 competition:
Team Life Saver from Obafemi Awolowo University and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology have developed an application called CardioLife, which helps prevent heart attacks by monitoring heart readings on the fly via the Microsoft Windows Phone. It also provides a rehabilitation programme for stroke patients using the Kinect sensor.
Team Life Saver
Wise Team, with members from ENIT, INSAT, and Time Universities, will fly to the finals to present their app, Drive Alive, which reduces the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. By providing a travel schedule, it alerts the drivers to any rest areas along their route and is calculated according to recommended sleep patterns and maximum driving times.
The Ugandan winners, Team Code 8 from Makerere University, have developed a solution called Matibabu that diagnoses malaria without pricking any body parts! This cutting-edge technology uses a light sensor connected to a tablet that is passed over a finger to diagnose the disease.
Team Code 8
Team GreenMust’s winning application makes recycling fun in an effort to promote environmentally friendly habits. Users receive ‘green’ tips and win points and vouchers for checking in their recyclable wastes. It also provides a virtual market place for recyclers and collectors to meet individuals and corporations accumulating a large mass of recyclable wastes.
Team PI CRAFT from Jomo Kenyatta University are the Kenyan finalists, with their project dubbed Protégé. The application allows people from around the world to search for children’s homes and rehabilitation centres, send donations, and even virtually adopt a child. All through their Windows smartphones!
Team PI Craft receiving their prize: A paid trip to compete in the global finals in St, Petersburg Russia
Team SentiMeter from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa have made it through to the Imagine Cup finals yet again! They have developed a big data social media analysis tool called SentiMeter, which competes with products like Brandseye, Radian 6 and BrandWatch. SentiMeter has already had interest from companies wanting to buy it.
The Creators of SentiMeter
Team Masked Ninjas from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering scooped top spot with their application called Videolater. It is designed to give users a more interactive experience of the news by automaticallysearching for online video clips of the news item being read. According to the team, “People with smartphones want to touch and feel the news.”
Participants in Egypt’s final
Team Tandabala from the Botho College of Software Engineering have developed a pension payment system called Tandabala. The application enables old age pensioners, World War veterans, and the destitute to receive their social security payments from remote locations. This is a solution to a very important issue as many pensioners in deep rural areas can’t easily reach central payment stations such as post offices. There are already 30,000 registered pensioners who benefit from the application.
Team UMA, comprising four students from the Angolan Methodist University (UMA) invented the Windows version of the popular game entitled “Don’t Fret” or “Não Te Irrites”. Played between four competing players across devices, this exciting game can now be enjoyed between friends in different locations.
Team Kernel from the Ivory Coast won the West and Central Africa regional finals held in Dakar, Senegal. Their innovation, Neoformily, meaning never forget your family, helps patients with Alzheimer's and memory disorders recognise their loved ones through face and voice recognition.
Each competing team deserves the highest recognition for the creativity and imagination applied to some of the world's biggest challenges. All of these solutions will have an impact on the future and inspire others. SinceImagine Cup was launched a decade ago, over 1.65 million students across the globe have participated and many of them have gone on to create thriving startups in their countries. So let’s get behind these teams and give them ourfull support!
If you are a student with a great idea for an app, I encourage you to apply for next year’s competition. Also, don’t forget that Microsoft’s BizSpark programme, another YouthSpark initiative, is a great way to get the support you need to launch your startup business
So what are you waiting for? Dream it, build it, live it, and win it!
Posted by: Djam BakhshandegiCSI Program Manager at Microsoft in Africa
Finding a job is still a daily struggle for millions of young people. Although the prospects for economic growth in Africa are good, increasing youth unemployment is limiting vital areas of that growth. Governments and industries must keep pace with supplying the opportunities to harness its potential, or face a problematic future.
With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 in Africa today, the youth community represents more than 60 per cent of the continent’s total population and accounts for 45 per cent of its growing labour force. Experts predict that Africa’s labour force will be larger than China’s by 2035.
So there is a real opportunity here to make young people the drivers of prosperity and growth for an entire region. Yet the International Labour Organisation statistics show that youth unemployment in Africa actually increases as education levels increase. It is a sad truth that young Africans are more literate than their parents, and yet more of them are unemployed. We must start from the ground up to ensure that the young labour force has the capacity to take on this important role in our future. And as such, our efforts must be focused on the core foundation of providing high quality education.
Evidence suggests that secondary school achievement has regressed in some African countries, yet overall literacy is growing and Africa spends more on secondary education than the global average.
So what are we missing? What is the recipe to shift this trend, improve education and make a positive impact on youth employment prospects in Africa? The answer must surely be identifying the right kind of skills that African youth need to succeed in today’s knowledge economy, and then boosting access to these skills.
Mindful that youth is the cornerstone of economic growth and competitiveness, policymakers in the Africa and the Middle East have been undertaking a series of actions and decisions aimed at increasing assistance and opportunities for youth. But this not solely an undertaking for governments. The private sector also has a duty to curb the youth unemployment epidemic, and as a leader in the ICT sector, Microsoft role is particularly critical. As technology becomes more ingrained in industries from manufacturing to healthcare and agriculture, ICT skills are high-priority 21st-century skills for employers. Is this shift evident to youth and is it a reality across educational and professional development courses? We have a clear responsibility to communicate these advancements through open dialogue with education providers, and state the skills they expect future employees to possess.
Microsoft has recently introduced the YouthSpark initiative, a new company-wide, global program with the goal to address the opportunity divide – the gap between those who have the skills, access and opportunities to be successful and those who do not – facing young people. Through this initiative, Microsoft is creating opportunities for Africa’s youth through partnerships with governments, non-profit organisations and businesses alike. We are pledging toserve youths by providing them with the enhanced technology and business training necessary to help them pursue additional education, obtain employment or start a new business or social venture.
As a case in point, through YouthSpark, in sub-Saharan Africa alone, we have already reached over half a million young people and made $1.1 million worth of software donations to non-Government-organisations. In addition we have trained almost 30, 000 teachers through our Partners In Learning tools as well as equipping hundreds of small & medium businesses with relevant start up skills.
I am glad that that specific mechanisms are being put in place across the region to foster skills and employability and fight youth unemployment. As policymakers, local businesses, international organisations and non-profits, it is vital that we are not just in the same boat, but that we are all rowing in the same direction. Avoiding the issue any longer is a mistake - young people have the potential, skills and enthusiasm to drive Africa forward and we should give them the best chance to succeed.
Posted by Dora Mbuyi Marketing Communications & CPE Lead
Customer support has always been a core focus for Microsoft. The recent roll-out of more local support numbers in Africa is yet another important milestone for us. By expanding our local dedicated support services in Africa to include Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, and Namibia; we are underscoring our commitment to the continent.
Evolving to meet customer demand
Looking back over Microsoft’s history, it’s clear that as the company has grown and evolved, so has our support base.
- In 1975, customer support consisted of just two people, Bill Gates and Paul Allen.- In 1990, with the launch of Windows 3.0, we had just 500 support personnel in place. - By 1995, we were providing support in 29 languages. - We went on to launch online support services, and later launched support services on Twitter.
Fast-forward to 2012 and we now have 90 000 employees in over 190 countries supporting and developing varied products and services for our customers and partners. This is not where it ends though. Our roll-out of local support service in Africa is just another step in our evolution to offer customer support services that reflect the diversity and geographic breadth of our customers and partners.
Posted by Simon OuattaraGeneral Manager for Microsoft West and Central Africa
As a twelve year veteran of Microsoft on the African continent, I’ve watched with great excitement the incredible growth within the ICT sector in Africa – and seen first-hand the power of technology to transform the lives of people, businesses and governments.
As an Ivorian, I have experienced first-hand my country’s years of conflict and struggle. But I also bear witness to incredible positive transformation taking place here. I’m more bullish now than ever in my optimism for the future. And I believe that ICT will undoubtedly be a conduit for the acceleration of growth in the country.
On the sunny, cool morning of 21 February, 2012, Microsoft opened the doors of its new office in Abidjan - the second-largest in the company’s West and Central Africa region – a move made to accommodate Microsoft’s rapidly expanding staff and partner network in the country; one which I celebrated alongside my Microsoft colleagues, our partner organizations, and several honourable ministers of ICT and Education including His Excellency the Minister of ICT, Mr. Kone Bruno, and Her Excellency the Minister of Education, Mme. Kandia Camara.
The expansion of our office in Abidjan marks an important milestone for Microsoft in the region, as it signals the promise of the ICT sector, and speaks to our commitment and passion to the rebuilding and future prosperity in the country.
One of the many highlights of the day was the signing of the strategic framework agreement with the government of Côte d’Ivoire outlining a plan to increase the use of ICT in the public sector, for enhancing teaching and learning, for increasing youth employability and for increasing access to technology beyond the urban cities to improve the standard of living and access to information and services in the rural areas.
Our partner network is just one positive indicator of an increasingly stabilized and healthy environment in the country. Today, we have more than 130 partners in Côte d'Ivoire who develop, sell, deploy and support solutions in this important region. The vast majority of those partners are small and medium sized businesses, who have a dramatic impact on local job creation, earning an average of $11 for every dollar Microsoft makes and re-investing that into the Ivorian economy.
We know there will be challenges. But we at Microsoft, together with our partners and the Côte d'Ivoire government, are emerging from the recent conflicts with hope and an eye towards leveraging technology to bring about positive change in the country. We’re excited and honoured to play a role in driving what’s next.
Posted by Aben Kovoor
Area Lead, Developer & Platform Group, Microsoft Middle East & Africa
To help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early stage startups across the African continent, we were proud to announce our support last month for the LIONS@FRICA initiative in partnership with U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, African Development Bank, Nokia, infoDev and DEMO and the World Economic Forum. The partnership aims to mobilize the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem, and spur entrepreneurship across the continent.
We are delighted to be a core member of this initiative announced last month at the World Economic Forum Africa 2012, and our investment is a natural extension of the work we have driven over the past 20 years to support entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. With six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies over the past decade in sub-Saharan Africa and the awakening of the African economy providing new prospects, we are keen to continue dedicating resources to working with entrepreneurs to help them realize their potential and take advantage of these opportunities.
We are fully aware that that the success of a startup hangs on its ability to monetize ideas as quickly as possible. To minimize the initial costs associated with development and testing, we made available the Microsoft BizSpark program across the African continent, thereby providing over 600 African startups and 188 Network Partners with fast and easy access to full featured Microsoft developer tools and platform licenses. With the consistent developer taxonomy and tight integration across Windows, entrepreneurs can focus on differentiating their innovations from the competition, not platform interoperability.
We built upon the support provided by the Microsoft BizSpark Program by giving entrepreneurs access to Microsoft Innovation Centers – world-class facilities that help foster the local software economy by providing qualified startups with access to infrastructure, technical and business mentorships. These are offered in partnership with local organizations such as academic institutions, technology hubs and our certified training partners where available. Other readiness activities include specific training for startups such as the Build Your Business program, which provides the skills needed to lead and grow businesses through improved knowledge and technology know-how.
Finally, to ensure entrepreneurs and innovators have the means to also market their ideas and solutions, we provide them visibility across the globe through both our internal and external networks. Imagine Cup is but one example of this, where the next generation of developers use technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. Last year, 1,300 students across 32 countries in Africa, participated in Imagine Cup, showcasing such entries as PAGEL, a database developed by Senegalese students that helps identify markets and places where food is available at lower prices. This year, a student team from Makerere University in Uganda has secured a place in Imagine Cup’s Worldwide Finals in Sydney for their application that aids midwives in their diagnoses for expectant mothers.
These are just a few examples of how Microsoft is enabling and supporting innovation in Africa to help build vibrant and self-sustaining local economies, and we expect our partnership with the experts at LIONS@FRICA to give us a fresh, new perspective as well. But for those start-ups who have ideas for action now, I would encourage you to:
Posted by Dele Akinsade Developer and Platform Evangelist, West, East and Central Africa
I can’t believe Imagine Cup 2012 has come and gone again, after months of build-up and excitement. It was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to be part of the journey and to engage with the talented African teams that made it to the finals in Sydney.
Team Gravity from Nigeria at the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Sydney
I must congratulate the winners of this year’s Imagine Cup, particularly the overall winner, Team QuadSquad from the Ukraine, who developed an amazing innovation: gloves that translate sign language into speech. Well done to the Egyptian and Algerian teams who won awards in the IT Challenge, Windows Phone challenge, and Windows Azure challenge, as well as the African teams that participated from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.
Special mention must go to Team Cipher256 from Uganda, who made it to the Top 20, despite not being able to be physically present in Sydney and having to present their project, an affordable mobile antenatal diagnosis solution, to the judges via Live Meeting.
Each year, during the months leading up to Imagine Cup, I am filled with pride when I see the quality of the projects developed by students across Africa, and hope and excitement at their prospects in the competition.
Team Sen Section from Senegal at the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Sydney
But what excites me most is what happens after the competition is over, when the excitement dies down, and everybody gets back to real life.
I recently checked in with some of the finalists from last year’s worldwide finals, and was thrilled to find out how well they are doing. Team Nerds from Nigeria, for example, has already started their own company and is working on a new web application that allows teachers to develop and customise lessons for their students using high quality multimedia tools. Several members of the other finalist teams from last year are working on their own startups, while others are pursuing their studies with the confidence of knowing what they are already capable of.
This is the real value of Imagine Cup: the unique experience it offers, the networking opportunities, and the confidence it instills in participants.
Team E-Soft from Côte d’Ivoire at the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Sydney
I want to encourage this year’s finalist teams not to see this as the end of journey, but as the beginning of one – it’s now time for you to really shine, pursue your dreams, and take what you have learned to help shape Africa’s future.
And lastly, I want to call upon African students to start thinking of new ways of using technology to help solve Africa’s challenges. You could join us in St Petersburg, Russia next year for the 2013 Imagine Cup Finals!
To keep up with next year’s Imagine Cup news from Africa, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Posted by Frank McCosker
Managing Director, Microsoft Global Strategic Accounts
Today, I’m in Nairobi, Kenya for the United Nations Chief Executive Briefing, where Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, launched the UN’s new energy neutral Nairobi office building. The building is the first of its kind for the UN in Africa and is a global showcase of sustainable design and technology.
We are proud to be part of UNEP’s inspirational goal of supporting forward-thinking and environmentally responsible technology - this goal is shared by the many UN partners and leaders also gathered in Kenya to attend the building’s launch.
Our work with UNEP stems from a public-private partnership that began in 2009, and our contribution to the UN office in Nairobi, which houses the UNEP headquarters began with the design of the building. Extensive consultation and background studies identified information technology and lighting as the highest energy using components and therefore the greatest roadblocks to achieving energy neutrality.
Traditional data centers require expensive air conditioning components that require massive amounts of energy to operate. These components account for up to 90 percent of IT energy consumption. To overcome this, we worked closely with UNEP to see how green technology, specifically the IT pre-assembled components (ITPAC) data center, could help UNEP support an IT infrastructure that achieves its energy neutrality goals for the building.
This piece of cutting-edge technology illustrates how it is possible to create sustainable 21st century work environments, and is at the center of Microsoft’s green IT strategy. And implementing green IT policies like the highly efficient ITPAC data center is not only ensuring the building’s energy neutrality, but also demonstrating the crucial role that technology can play in environmental sustainability.
The ITPAC technology uses fans to create negative pressure, drawing outside air through the container to cool equipment. As a result, the technology dramatically reduces typical data center carbon footprint and the consumption of materials such as water, concrete, steel, piping and copper, along with the additional carbon footprint associated with the packaging and transporting of servers, equipment and supplies.
We have estimated that with ITPAC data centers, the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio is often cut in half. In addition, the ITPAC’s technology also allows the building to leverage increased IT flexibility and scalability of advanced technologies like cloud computing – unlocking even greater efficiencies and allowing the UN staff in Nairobi to do more with less. Based on research Microsoft conducted with Accenture, we’ve found that the carbon emissions running Microsoft business applications were reduced by more than 30% when hosted in the cloud when compared to being installed on-premise. In addition to our technology, the new UN building in Nairobi has some other really interesting and innovative features, such as energy saving lighting, energy efficient laptops, natural ventilation systems and 6,000 square meters of solar panels designed to generate as much electricity as its 1,200 occupants consume.
A working building and a research facility, it also serves as a sustainable showcase aiming to motivate others around the world to become part of the transition to a green economy. Moreover, the building is a testimony to the power of public-private partnerships and the potential for innovation through collaboration.
Microsoft applauds UNEP’s vision and commitment to making their energy neutral goal a reality.
Posted by Larry VenterSenior Director of Retail Solutions for Microsoft Worldwide
Just under a year ago I was fortunate enough to do a tour of Lakeside Park Primary in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal. During that tour the headmaster told me of the struggle that the foundation phase children have in learning English – in fact I recall something he said; “when the children stopped using English on the playground, their English results suffered”. I left the school a few hours later thinking about how we could do something to improve literacy acquisition. Over the next few months I set about researching PC educational games and the edutainment market, but it was really at the launch of the San Diego Microsoft Store that the penny dropped. At the opening, in June of last year, I saw Kinect™ for Xbox 360® being played by children and parents outside the store and I recall thinking – that’s the perfect medium for learners! It’s fun, its interactive, it’s in English and it’s highly collaborative too!
Momentum kicked in with Microsoft’s Live@Edu team funding the study, which engaged local educational technology experts, NGO SchoolNet SA, to develop the teacher training materials and conduct training, and also to review, select and purchase appropriate games, install the devices and security systems and manage an independent evaluator, Mindset. Eight teachers from Lakeside Park Primary, a small school in the remote district of Vryheid in rural KwaZulu-Natal, were trained and their classrooms equipped with the interactive Xbox and Kinect gaming platforms and security.I have learnt that in education there are two levers that can be pulled to improve the learning experience – time with teacher, and the quality of the teacher. In the early days of this program we started seeing how teachers were able to use Kinect to drive heightened engagement in the classrooms. One teacher is quoted saying that “the level of interaction I saw on day one would normally take us three to four months to get to”. In my mind that equates to more time with the teacher!
We have also seen teachers use the training we provided to start providing creative solutions – or learning opportunities – that benefit the children and improve the teachers delivery too. In the first week we saw a teacher use “avatar creation” as a way to introduce the learners to life skills – by allowing each to design their own avatar. We also saw a teacher use bowling as a numeracy exercise, and even the use of “kinectimals” as a way of constructing sentences – in my mind all that helps to develop the quality of the teachers delivery.
Studies of gaming in education show that learners really engage when teachers design their lesson activities around the topics in games, simply due to the added stimulus. With Kinect, you can play a variety of sport, edutainment and instructive games using body movements and voice. Sensors replicate your motions via an on-screen avatar – your ‘mirror image’. Change was afoot from the word ‘go’.Today we officially announced the program in South Africa and it has drawn a lot of excitement from national and local educators and politicians. My hope is that we can use the findings of this program and develop solutions that will continue to transform the teaching and learning experience across Africa.
Posted by Wanjira KamwereGovernment Engagement Manager at Microsoft WECA
Education is viewed by some people as a basic human right. I include myself in this group, however the reality is that education is a luxury for many people in the world and pockets of society often find it hard to access. Across Africa, I feel that the value of educating women in particular cannot be underestimated. Providing education and skills to African women offers them a brighter future and a way to support themselves and their communities in unprecedented ways. Happily, supporting young talent and local communities across Africa is a huge priority for Microsoft and I’m proud to be one of those responsible for driving initiatives in the WECA region, especially when I see firsthand the results it brings.
I’m really proud of some work that I have been able to be a involved in as part of the Global Give Back Circle, which is in turn part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and is committed to empower disadvantaged adolescent girls in Kenya. Through the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC), women at Microsoft, such as myself, mentor young local girls to help create opportunities and design a future path for them. The programme also addresses a critical challenge for all young people in Kenya – the unavoidable 21 month gap between high school and university. We help to bridge this gap by engaging young, women on a nine-month ICT course in specially built IT Labs in Kenya. This is complemented by an arranged internship, equipping the ‘mentees’ with critical e-Skills and experience of the working world before they embark on their chosen university courses.
As the name suggests, this mentoring programme is also designed to promote the culture of giving back to the community. The young women who take part in the GGBC become mentors themselves, transferring knowledge to others by teaching computer skills. The cycle of local empowerment improves local community support, promotes independence and encourages private sector investment.
The GGBC has helped many young women reach their full potential - three of the first GGBC class of 2009 are Clinton Scholars in the American University in Dubai, two were awarded scholarships to US universities and 25 are attending university throughout Kenya.
This year I was excited to see the programme lead one young Kenyan girl to even greater horizons. Thanks to her commitment to the GGBC, 19-year-old Pauline Kachinja was selected as the spokesperson for the local Microsoft IT Lab during a live-stream of the facility at the 2010 CGI Session on Democratizing Education. This year she went on to win a place as the sole African female representative at the July leadership training summit in Washington DC. Pauline also had a rare opportunity to meet US congresswomen and has gained skills in project and financial management as well as on-camera interview experience. Back in Kenya, she will impart these skills to others, giving back to the community.
Being part of the Global Give Back Circle is a great example of how Microsoft is helping young people worldwide to unlock their full potential, empowering them to expand their horizons, learn new skills and improve their chances of employment. In Kenya this takes on even greater significance as these opportunities offer young women greater independence and ultimately help themselves, and others, escape from poverty. Personally, I look forward to seeing this empowerment eventually come full circle as more highly-skilled young talent enters the business world and fuels our burgeoning local economy. But don’t take it from me, here’s Pauline’s own words on her GGBC experience…
My name is Pauline Kachinja – I’m a beneficiary of the Global Give Back Circle and an undergraduate student at Moi University, Kenya – and I was offered the precious chance to attend the IL2L International Girls’ Summit in Washington D.C. this summer. I was nervous before going, in case I didn’t represent Kenya as best I could. But I shouldn’t have worried – I met so many inspiring girls my age from all over the world, learnt a great deal and I was selected as one of the best two speakers at the summit! My prize was to be filmed in a TV studio talking about my background and my ICAN project, which was great.
I also visited the Kenyan embassy and met His Excellency, Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, who gave me these words of encouragement: “Leadership is a long journey with numerous challenges but if you stay focused you will make it.” My whole stay in the United States was crowned by the graduation which was held at the Georgian embassy. I was joined by my new mentor and her family. All the participants received a certificate, it was a very emotional moment because of the bond that we had created amongst one another and now it was time to part. We are already planning a reunion in ten years so we can see how far we have all come.
Being part of the GGBC and going to America has been a life-changing experience that I can never forget. I’m taking two very valuable lessons back to Kenya from it all: • You don’t have to be rich or to be so educated to make a change in this world; all you need is to believe in yourself. Women are a force of change in this world. • As a leader, try to find an opportunity in every challenge, and overcome any challenges in every opportunity, that comes your way.
Pauline meets the Kenyan Ambassador in Washington D.C.
Guest post by John Nielsen GM, EMEA Customer Service and Support
Earlier in September, I accompanied a ten-strong team of engineers from across Microsoft EMEA Customer Service & Support to the Blantyre area of Malawi. The team were there to install a brand new network that would connect four local schools. Working closely with teams from mobile network Access Communications and the charity Computers for Malawian Schools, we helped launch the Malawi Learning Partnership (MLP) – a community networking project using ICT tools to allow teachers, students and partners communicate and enhance education in Malawi.
We’re extremely proud that, over the week, we helped these schools bridge the digital divide so that they can better harness the power of technology; giving teachers the IT tools that will help them create more dynamic lessons for their students. The network now in place will let schools integrate their work much more closely, widening their access to new learning tools and ideas.
The visit wasn’t without its complications – we made slow progress on our first couple of days and had to deal with rolling power cuts every two nights, which meant that we had to complete a large portion of the networking by candlelight. In addition, using computers with 128MB RAM felt like a trip back in time for many of us. In spite of this, the team made it work and the partnership launch was a great success.
In fact, upon my return to the office, I was delighted to take part in a Skype call with some of the students and my colleagues still in in Malawi at the time – something which would not have been possible a few days earlier.
Late on in the trip, the team met some of the hardworking staff at the Jacaranda School for Orphans. Even though they were already behind with the schools they had initially agreed to network together, they were so impressed and humbled by their work that they insisted on including them within the MLP. Despite the set-backs due to the power-outages, they charged forward.
Our work wasn’t limited to helping to launch the MLP. We also had the pleasure of meeting with several hundred local residents – including parents of children at participating schools, local business leaders and members of the community – at an evening event we hosted. During the session, I presented to the guests about our citizenship agenda, and the work we were doing in Malawi.
The female members of the team were also fortunate enough to run a session as part of Microsoft’s DigiGirlz programme, which gives high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in IT and participate in hands-on computer workshops. Fifty girls from around Blantyre took part, and everyone was delighted to have seen this part of the project come to fruition. One participant told us the session had been “the best day of her life”, which is pretty amazing. Our hope now is that the participants have more confidence in their abilities and understand more about the possibilities of working in IT thanks to their involvement in the session.
Technology aside, the visit was also a chance for us to see some of our fundraising for Against Malaria in action. We hand-delivered some of the 5,000 nets funded by our efforts – a simple but vital tool in helping Malawian families prevent spread of the disease. This was a great moment of the trip – seeing how our efforts will help to save lives. And although we’ve returned home, our work hasn’t ended. We have now formed a Technology Mentoring Network with the people of Malawi that will offer ongoing support and training to young Malawians starting new businesses.
I think it’s safe to say that the visit to Malawi was one of the proudest moments of the team members’ careers. It was a hugely rewarding experience – it was fantastic to see benefits of our work immediately, and meet some amazing people. We’re excited to keep in touch with the team on the ground and hear more about the progress being made.
I’d like to leave you with a short video showing some of the highlights from our trip.
Posted by Cheick DiarraChairman for Africa
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 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.
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 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 Anthony SalcitoVice President of Worldwide Education, Microsoft
Originally posted on Microsoft on the Issues One of the profound privileges of my job is that, every year around this same time, we host the Partners in Learning Global forum – this is the Olympics of innovative education. All of the participants (nearly 500 educators from more than 80 countries) are remarkable, but it gave me chills Saturday night as I watched a teacher from Pakistan – a woman named Munazza Riaz – take the stage and receive the equivalent of the gold medal for education. She beamed as she held up the flag of her nation. Consider the enormous challenges and obstacles Munazza must have overcome to reach this moment. And yet, she is just one teacher – an island of excellence amidst an ocean of schools who don’t have these opportunities – due to lack of training and lack of digital access. There is a lot of talk these days about the cloud. While the cloud offers enormous promise, the reality is that, without access, that promise is empty. In countries like Haiti and throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, 90 percent of rural schools have no electricity. Without power, digital access is a non-starter. And the opportunity divide for young people widens every day. Nearly one billion young people today face this opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Recently, Steve Ballmer announced YouthSpark, a companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world, helping transform education and expand digital inclusion to empower youth to change their world. We firmly believe in the power of technology to help close this gap and one of the ways we can move forward is through partnerships. That’s why we are making a $75 Million commitment to unite with six of the strongest humanitarian organizations in the world – World Vision, British Council, SOS Children’s Villages, Plan International, International Rescue Committee and Catholic Relief Services – to tackle education inequalities and close the divide. The $75 million commitment is in addition to the $250 million, five-year renewal of the company’s flagship Partners in Learning program we announced this past week, a reflection of our commitment to holistic transformation of education systems around the world through digital access to youth and capacity building for educators. An example of this work – Spark a Child’s Digital Future www.worldvision.org/bethespark – has launched in Kenya, scaling across Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the next five years. For $100, individual donors can help ensure that young people in Africa cross the opportunity divide through a holistic approach including not only a device and connectivity, but comprehensive training and professional development for teachers and school leadership. I want to share a story that illustrates how this model can work in some of the most challenging environments on the planet. Our team recently visited Kisapuk community school in rural Kenya. The school sits 35 kilometers off the nearest paved road. There is no electricity available within 30 square kilometers of the site. However, thanks to our partnership with World Vision, the school has been successfully operating an innovative learning lab, running off solar and 3G Internet access. Amazingly, the school has been self-sufficient for more than two years, earning more than $200 a month in income (after expenses), thanks to cell-phone charging services, printing and offline as well as online learning services. This is in part made possible via a blended model including Windows MultiPoint Server – which virtualizes one computer into 10 or more workstations – dramatically dropping the cost of hardware as well as reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs by 80 percent. In the latest version of the product, which was released this past week, schools like Kisapuk now have a means to accelerate learning inside and outside the classroom by layering in a 1:1. WMS 2012 allows teachers to layer on classroom management, wirelessly orchestrating the entire learning environment from a single interface. It’s incredibly inspiring that the exact same classroom environment deployed in schools within a 5-mile radius of the Microsoft campus is affordable and practical enough for the least-resourced schools on the planet like Kisapuk. As I reflect on the host of innovative educators around the world who are accomplishing amazing achievements in the classroom, I am filled with hope. Together with inspiring leaders like Munazza, along with our partners, we will bridge the opportunity divide, equipping the next generation of leaders with the tools they need for a brighter future.