By Emeka Aginam, Asst. Online Editor
AsÂ cash prize of USD$25,000 awaitsÂ the winning team for the software giant, MicrosoftÂ Imagine Cup 2010 series , no fewer than 145 Nigerian students from the tartially institutionÂ are currentlyÂ jostlingÂ for theÂ softwareÂ competition that encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to technology innovations focused on finding solutions to some of the worldâ€™s most challenging social issues outlined in the United Nationsâ€™ Millennium Development Goals,(MDGs)
With about applications from 50 schools across the nation, Image Cup is aÂ global softwareÂ competition promoted by the software giant, MicrosoftÂ to actually challenge Nigerian students on software incubation for global competitiveness.
Meanwhile, asÂ preparations are in top gear by the several regions for this yearâ€™s event, Microsoft Nigeria has announced 24th of May 2010 as the date for the national final which will hold at the UNILAG CITS Complex in Lagos. Winners, the software gaint said,Â will be representing Nigeria at the World final which will hold in Poland in July.
Now in its eighth year, the competition begins with the local and regional contests, whose finalists go on to the World finals which hold in different locations every year.Â Kick-started in Spain, the World finals have held in Brazil, Japan, India, South Korea, France and Egypt.
Although there appears to be anxiety if Nigeria will make, but by theÂ sixth edition, Nigeria was lucky to book a space at the finals in France.Â The country according to the software gainÂ was represented by the same team in Egypt in 2009.
At the national final, participating teams will each be allottedÂ some time to present their concept and demo.Â This will be followed by a rigorous selection process that will lead to the announcement of the winners.
But addressingÂ IT journalists last week in LagosÂ to announce the Nigeria final, Ken Spann, Development Platform Manager, Microsoft Nigeria said with optimism Microsoft was committed in empowering the youths in software incubation for the challenges ahead.
â€œThe goal of Imagine Cup is to awaken the consciousness of youths and stimulate their thought process to improve their environment and ultimately Nigeria as a whole.â€
â€œThe response this year has been overwhelming. So far we have received applications from 50 schools, with 145 students indicating interest This is about 20% higher than the number we recorded last year. This shows that Nigerian youths are passionate about the world around them and desirous of making a significant difference.
â€œThe Imagine Cup Students of today will contribute to building the knowledge based economy of the future. Nigeria can become a key country for software development and begin to create not only jobs but wealth as well.
â€œWe wanted to do something to reward the schools who invest the time and commitment to participate in this competition. While registered participants can download this software for free, Microsoft appreciates that this is a significant drain on bandwidth resources. Any participants struggling to access the software via the internet should contact me or The Nigerian Computer Society so Microsoft can provide the software directly if needed
â€œAdditionally, we do recommend that participants install Windows Internet Explorer 8, the new Web browser from Microsoft which is both easier to use and faster before downloading the products.â€ he said.
Among the 18 products available for free download are Windows Server 2008 R2 on which the following products can be installed: Visual Studio Beta 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, SQL Server 2008 Developer and Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R.2.
It would be recalled that last year, the common theme in the presentations of 5 of the competing teams was health.Â Team Creative Minds and Team Ecosave presented the eHealth System and Virtual Medical Systems respectively while Team Ekahâ€™s focus was Mobile Health Solution which is a mobile phone based healthcare service and Team Indwell, eHealth Solution which aims to provide better health information systems that can also be accessed remotely.
The winning team, Team Xâ€™s presentation was titled Autonomous Health Systems which in their words â€œputs access to maternal health at the finger tips of prospective mothers at their pregnancy periods, gets their health calls to the right personnel and supports their children from birth to age 5. Autonomous Health System achieves this by using the ubiquitous SMS technology.â€Â The system is designed to provide rapid response to calls and by the right people.
A two-time winner of the national finals, Celestine Ezeokoye, who regrettably couldnâ€™t register this year because of his tight schedule, thanked Microsoft for the initiative which is aimed at empowering students outside the classroom.
According to him, â€œImagine Cup has greatly impacted my life.
Through it, I have been able to dream, task my imagination as well as articulate my thoughts.Â I have also forged friendships which will last a lifetime.â€
â€œMicrosoft cannot continue to do this alone.Â We need support from other businesses; corporations as well as government to enable us perform at our optimum capacity.â€ he said.