BY Emeka Aginam
Despite challenges, efforts are underway to bridge the digital divide in Africa with the introduction of Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort through which the software giant would actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.
Laying the foundation
With the commission of about N12 billion in the African market as part of its initiative to help improve the continent’s global competitiveness, current efforts are focused on accelerating adoption of smart devices, empowering small and medium businesses, and up-leveling skills development to ignite African innovation for the continent and for the world.
Microsoft’s Africa promise
By 2016, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative plans 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, up-skill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop skills for employability, 75 percent of which Microsoft will help place in jobs.
To improve technology access, Microsoft also announced the deployment of a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet Service Provider, Indigo Telecom Ltd., to deliver low-cost, high-speed, wireless broadband and create new opportunities for commerce, education, healthcare, and delivery of government services across Kenya. The deployment is called “Mawingu,” which is Kiswahili for cloud.
“The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. We want 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,” Fernando de Sousa, General Manager, Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, said at the launch of the initiative held simultaneously in 7 African countries.
Technology can accelerate growth for Africa:
According to him, Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative was built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.
Speaking to IT Journalists during the introduction of the initiative, Onyeje, General Manager, Microsoft Nigeria said with optimism that the capacity building project would help youths to be globally competitive.
“The 4Afrika Initiative will be tightly connected to Microsoft’s network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today, a network it has built over 20 years of investing and operating in the Continent.
“The 4Afrika Initiative will leverage these existing partnerships and create new ones across both the public and private sectors to help advance common goals and to create value for Africans
ogether with our partners, Microsoft has initiated various other efforts in recent months as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, including:AppFactory, Nokia and Windows Phone user training, Female empowerment portal
“We are ever committed building African digital divide. It is our promise. Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative It is a model for job creation. It is all about making Africa globally competitive. We want to create skills. We want to create innovation. We want to create access. Having smart devices in the hands of many youths in the continent is our major concern now. Young people are critical to this initiate” he said.
Focus on youths
Also speaking, the former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe said youths as the targets, the initiative would propel increased attention on the telecomm value chain.
“Microsoft should concentrate on the young people, because most initiatives advances made in relating to IT advancement have been with the young people. In fact, the initiatives are timely, especially now government is very anxious in seeing that certain challenges that have not allowed the sector grow are faced squarely” he explained.
For Professor Utomi, the project was a laudable one having the youths and SMEs in mind. “There is need for capacity building on the youths. The programme makes a lot economic sense as they will accelerate development, particularly when the rural dwellers are incorporated into the projects.