Could Cryptocurrencies be the next big thing in Africa? (IT News Africa)

Mobile money is booming in Africa, and digital currencies are at a close second, due to the same reason: 30% of Africans lack access to traditional financial services such as bank accounts and credit cards.

By Eran Feinstein, Chairman of 3G Direct Pay Group

 

Consequently, they are mostly limited to cash transactions, which impede on their ability to choose where to make purchases and do business. Cryptocurrencies play an important role in the development of technology-driven markets, and as Africa shifts a large portion of its business to technological and virtual endeavors, it is only natural that cryptocurrencies should become significant.

New research from PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that the acceptance of the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has achieved critical mass and, as such, is positioned to disrupt the payments market. For Africa, cryptocurrencies hold many benefits, such as:

Pan Africa – Connecting Africans
Currently, each African country has their own currency, and Africans are unable to even complete transactions in other African countries within the same system, such as M-Pesa: a user in Ghana cannot send an M-Pesa payment to another user located in Kenya, for example.

Economic growth in Africa is often hindered by the lack of regional trade that cryptocurrencies can enable without necessitating the adoption of a single currency such as the Euro. As a decentralized currency with no real authority, cryptocurrencies would enable less expensive and more widely accepted cross-border transactions between African countries than the currently popular mobile payments. While mobile payments are more well-established and trusted in the region, and they do allow for cross-border transactions, they are costlier than cryptocurrencies and do not work across all borders.  Cryptocurrencies enable swift, cheap transactions that will broaden markets and possibilities, both for the individuals and the countries, and contribute to Africa’s growth.

The World at Africa’s Fingertips
Cross border transactions are currently incredibly expensive for those who are lucky to have the ability, but as 30% of Africans do not have a bank account or credit card, world markets are unavailable to them. The surge in usage of mobile phones has introduced Africans to alternative forms of remittance, which have, in turn, been a tremendous boost to business and individuals. However, mobile payments still rely heavily on currencies such as the Dollar or Euro, as well as African eWallets, such as M-Pesa, all of which cause very high currency exchange fees. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, and thus, have no exchange fee, as they are accepted worldwide, thus both saving the user fees and enabling them to purchase products and services from other countries, which were previously unavailable to them.

Additionally, freelancers will be able to accept payments in the cryptocurrency of their choice, thus facilitating cross-border work. Freelancers will no longer be limited to business in Africa and will be able to work with clients worldwide, as receiving payments will no longer be a challenge. Payments can be sent and received quickly, anywhere in the world, 24/7, without having to account for banking holidays, currency exchange rates, banking fees, and more.

Security, Trust, and Transparency
Cryptocurrencies have no central authority figure, such as a government, and transactions are transparent. While personal information is never revealed, each person has a unique address where their transactions are listed. As such, cryptocurrencies are safe against identify theft, and merchants cannot add fees without the customer’s’ knowledge. Anyone can view all transactions at any given time, but cryptocurrencies are cryptographically secure, meaning they cannot be manipulated by any person or government. Cryptocurrencies cannot be seized and funds cannot be frozen by governments or financial intermediaries, so users can be confident that they have complete control over their money. For many Africans, this level of security and transparency is precisely what they need and demand.

Risk in cryptocurrencies is very low; since transactions do not carry any personal information, cannot be reversed, and are encrypted, the chance of fraud for merchants is very low. Bitcoin carries multilayer protection, including physical access to the computer, meaning the chance of theft is significantly lower than other currencies. Consequently, merchants will be able to do business in higher-risk areas. This also means that companies and individuals that may have been hesitant to work with some African countries will now have the ability to confidently expand their offerings to Africa, as well.

Creation of New Services
The introduction of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in Africa can spark numerous technological advances to support its usage. Ideally, people will be able to elect to receive their salary in the cryptocurrency and financial institutions can issue cryptocurrency-backed credit cards. Tipjars, both virtual and physical, can also have an ability to be cryptocurrency-based, which can broaden usage capabilities.

Advances in the field are already taking place in Africa: A Ghana-based IT company has recently created a bitcoin-producing farm, adding capacity to the global pool, thus promoting Bitcoin development in Africa. Companies such as BitPesa enable Africans to convert Bitcoin received overseas into local currencies.

Disadvantages of Cryptocurrencies
While cryptocurrencies boast a plethora of advantages, at the present time, very few businesses, in Africa and worldwide, currently deal with them. As such, adoption and growth in Africa is severely hindered. However, as more international companies begin to accept cryptocurrencies, Africa, too, will be able to reap the benefits. Likewise, cryptocurrencies are currently very volatile, with very few coins available and demand rising daily. However, volatility is expected to decrease with time.

Additionally, public awareness of cryptocurrencies in Africa is currently very low. As people are not aware of them, they have yet to demand their acceptance at local business. However, with an estimated million Bitcoin wallets in Africa at the end of 2015, with nearly one third being used by Kenyans, the potential of cryptocurrency in Africa is clearly high. Therefore, lack of awareness is only a temporary issue.

Finally, since cryptocurrencies are anonymous, it has been known to be used for illicit purposes. Nonetheless, while traditionally Bitcoin was viewed as a black market currency used to cover up illegal activities, its widespread adoption by respected companies has given it validation and enabled it to grow.

Cryptocurrencies can potentially transform Africa by enabling an increasingly open trade in the continent itself and worldwide. Cryptocurrencies facilitate cross-border transactions by providing users with one lone currency and little to no fees. Additionally, the security and transparency of the network will provide Africans with the trust that they do not feel with their local financial institutions. With so many Africans lacking bank accounts and electing to utilize mobile payment platforms like this one instead, cryptocurrencies will undoubtedly transform into the largest game-changer for African economies in the upcoming decade.

Read More at IT News Africa

14 Middle East & Africa non-profits to receive Microsoft grants (IT News Africa)

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Microsoft Philanthropies has announced grants for over 100 non-profits worldwide, of which 14 are in the Middle East and Africa. These grants are a component of the $75M commitment Microsoft made to increase access to computer science education around the world through Microsoft YouthSpark, as announced by Satya Nadella last year.

By Staff writer (IT News Africa)

14 non-profits across Middle East & Africa to receive Microsoft grants. (Image Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft is partnering with these nonprofits by providing cash grants, content and other resources needed to bring computational thinking and problem-solving skills to young people in local communities, important building blocks to help them succeed in today’s tech-fueled economy.

“Computational thinking and problem-solving skills will be relevant to every job in the future,” says Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Through our partnerships with nonprofit organizations around the world, we aim to empower all youth to prepare for this future with the foundational knowledge of computer science to dream and create the innovations of tomorrow.”

One of these partnerships is with Silatech, a dynamic social initiative that works to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for young people throughout the Arab world. Microsoft recently partnered with Silatech to provide online employability resources to Arab youth through the Ta3mal employability platform.  Microsoft is also eager to continue the partnership with World Vision, the new implementing partner of the recently transitioned TizaaWorks employability platform in Ghana.

Closing the computer science skills gap and reaching young people on a global scale is a multi-faceted challenge that cannot be solved by one organization or solution alone.

Microsoft’s partnerships with nonprofit organizations mean that more young people in the MEA region—particularly underserved communities, girls and ethnic and racially diverse populations-will have access to computer science education, helping build skills critical for future success.

One such partnership that will aid in bridging the gap in computer science skills is the Oman Information Technology Society and We Speak Code Initiative which promotes learning how to code through various activities and projects.

Other countries in the region to receive grants include Morocco, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Turkey, Kenya, Tunisia, South Africa, Oman, Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana and Cameroon.

read more at: http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2016/04/14-middle-east-african-non-profits-to-receive-microsoft-grants/

 

Google awards R10 Million grant to African organisation (IT News Africa)

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By Staff Writer (IT News 

Google has awarded a $717,728 (roughly R10 Million) grant to the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) to develop technology that can assist people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are living with disabilities.

Related: Google to train 1 million people in Africa in digital skills

SAFOD is working with with the University of Washington and The African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD) to establish AT-Info-Map, a system that will map the location and availability of assistive technology (AT) in Sub-Saharan Africa—providing critical and timely information to empower governments, suppliers, and advocates to increase access to AT.

Google awards R1m grant to African organisation

The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities was launched in March last year, in the form of an open call to global nonprofits who are building transformative technologies for people around the world with disabilities. Ideas were received from over 1 000 organisations spanning 88 countries, and 30 winners were announced last week.

Google is helping these 30 organisations to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying its people and by mobilising its resources in support of their missions.

The organisations Google is supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organisation has also committed to open sourcing their technology—which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed.

In awarding these grants Google looked for big ideas, with technology at the core and the potential to scale supported by nimble and flexible teams that are strong enough to implement the work proposed.

And, Google realises there’s always room to improve its products as well. The company has a team committed to monitoring the accessibility of Google tools; and provides engineering teams with training to incorporate accessibility principles into products and services. That doesn’t just mean improving existing Google tools, it means developing new ones as well. For example, Liftware is a stabilising utensil designed to help people with hand tremors eat more easily, and self-driving cars could one day transform mobility for everyone.

Find more information.

https://www.google.org/impactchallenge/disabilities/grants.html

 

 

Google to train 1 million people in Africa in digital skills (IT News Africa)

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Google has, at a press conference in Johannesburg, announced its commitment to train one million young Africans in digital skills in the next year. In realising this commitment, Google is supporting its partner Livity Africa to run two training programs: ‘Digify Bytes’ to give digital skills to young people looking to develop a digital career; and ‘Digify Pro’, a 3-month immersion program for digital specialists.

Editor: Darryl Linington (IT News Africa)

Luke McKend, Country Director, Google South Africa. (Image Credit: Darryl Linington).

These programs have already launched in Nigeria, Kenya & South Africa, and will be scaled to reach more people in the next 12 months. A group of 65 volunteer Googlers from around the world are helping the Livity team with content development, ‘training the trainers’ and, in some cases, delivering the training sessions.

Additionally, the announcement saw the launch of digifyafrica.com – an online-learning portal that will house a range of digital skills courses, available to anyone in Africa – free. The courses are designed to be as “light” as possible so they don’t eat up valuable data. There are nine training courses already available and Google aims to have 50 available by July.

Luke McKend Country Director, South Africa: “The internet is at the heart of economic growth and the Digital Skills Program is aimed at helping more Africans play a part in the digital economy. Everyone can succeed online, start a new business, grow their existing one, or share their passion.”

Read More at IT News Africa

Africa, preparing to become an Always-On continent (IT News Africa)

With global cloud traffic expected to quadruple from current levels to 8.6 zettabytes (one zettabyte is equal to a billion terabytes), by the end of 2019, there is significant potential for Africa to capitalise on the move to Always-On.

Gregg Petersen, regional director for MEA and the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation at Veeam Software, believes the African continent is well-poised to embrace changing business requirements for high availability.

By Staff Writer: IT News Africa

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“While infrastructure is one of the traditional bugbears in Africa, many countries have turned to wireless as a viable alternative to copper connections. This has enabled business to transform into Always-On operations by providing employees and other stakeholders with increased access to data using a myriad of devices.”

Petersen says there has been a big play in Africa around alliance integration with the likes of HP, NetApp, and EMC doing more in their partner programmes.

“For many multinationals, Africa presents a greenfield opportunity. Service providers can come in and implement new technologies without being concerned about legacy solutions. They can therefore immediately virtualise their clients with the associated cost and efficiency benefits happening sooner rather than later.”

For such an African expansion strategy to be successful, Petersen believes, a service provider needs to have a local presence in the countries. People do not want to do things remotely.

“Emerging markets in Africa require a different strategy. Multi-nationals cannot simply bundle them together with countries in Europe with different operating environments and hope to be successful. It is about bridging the availability gap with a new breed of solution and a new way of doing business.”

Petersen says the benefits of Always-On are becoming ever-more apparent. “Always-On brings rapid growth. With the focus moving away from traditional mindsets, the transition to the modern data centre brings with it a breath of fresh air when it comes to data availability.”

By being able to adopt new availability solutions almost immediately, approaches in those countries are lending themselves to be more conducive to Always-On. And with many vendors focusing on solutions that are easy to use, customers have the peace of mind that they can focus on meeting their business deliverables.

“We are entering an incredibly exciting time for the African continent. Significant opportunities are becoming available to solutions providers willing to cater for local nuances and therefore the shift to virtualization is a case of when it will happen, rather than if,” concludes Petersen.

Read More at IT News Africa

Top 10 Education Apps for Africa (IT News Africa)

Leading academics, CIOs, regulators, NGOs, service providers, and EduTech entrepreneurs will convene at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on the 17th of March 2016 for the upcoming 2016 Education Innovation Summit.

The Summit, which has been organised by IT News Africa and sponsored by Telkom, will see these leaders discuss vital topics around the impact of technology on education.

By Darryl Linington

Ahead of the summit, IT News Africa is highlighting some of the top education apps for Africa. The apps featured below offer users the opportunity to learn new languages, discover various facts about global history, as well as brush up on their math and science knowledge.

Top Education Apps for Africa.

Top Education Apps for Africa

1. Khan Academy (Free)
The Khan Academy application offers, according to the developers, over 10 000 educational videos that relate to subjects such as math, science, economics, history, and a variety of other subjects.

To add to the features, the Khan Academy app allows students to keep learning, while offline, by downloading the required content to their mobile device.

The app also allows students to learn using videos and in-depth articles in math (arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, linear algebra), science (biology, chemistry, physics), economics, and even the humanities with tutorials on art history, civics, finance, and more.

It also allows students to discover how the Krebs cycle works as well as learn about the fundamentals of music notation.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

2. Toca Lab (Paid for App)
For students aged 7 and up, Toca Lab Explores the colourful and electrifying world of science. The app introduces students to the Periodic Table and teaches them about 118 of its elements. However, the learning does not stop there. Toca Lab gives students the ability to use virtual lab equipment in order to conduct experiments.

Toca Lab is a place for playing, learning and having fun, and with it the developers have the hope that it will inspire kids to explore science.

Download on: Android Devices
Download on: Apple Devices

3. DuoLingo (Free)
African students who are looking to travel the world have the opportunity to learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish and Turkish with the DuoLingo app.

Practice speaking, reading, listening and writing. Play a game, answer questions and complete lessons to improve your vocabulary and grammar. Start with basic verbs, phrases, and sentences, and learn new words daily.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

4. Math Expert (Free)
According to the Google Play Store, the Math Expert application has been downloaded over 1 million times. The app covers various topics such as basic arithmetic, area calculation, trigonometry, polynomal division and more.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

5. WhizApp (Free)
The WhizApp application is another free education app that ranks high. The main subject that the app focuses on is mathematics. Essentially, the application will test a student’s response speed and memory power in a fun yet challenging manner.

According to the developers, Whizapp is a simple yet fun application that trains the brain via mental calculations, increasing response speed, concentration and memory power.

Download on Android Devices

6. Yoruba101 (Paid For APP)
The Yoruba101 application is a paid for app. The application offers students and adults the opportunity to learn about the language and the culture of the Yoruba people – who are located in Southwestern and North central Nigeria as well as Southern and Central Benin in West Africa.

The app has interactive lessons and games with performance trackers to monitor user progress. The app was designed and developed by Genii studios as part of its Asa apps series.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

7. Complete Physics (Free)
The Complete Physics application offers students various tutorials when it comes to physics related formulas and practicals. The app also features a physics quiz and also includes a physics dictionary.

Complete Physics, according to the developers, covers the syllabus for exams like WAEC, NECO, JAMB, KCSE, Post JAMB and GCE.

The app also covers the following topics: Physics as a science, Kinematics, Fluid, Scalar and Vector, Force, Circular Motion, Energy, Momentum, Heat Energy and Thermodynamics, Optics, Waves and many more.

Download on Android Devices

8. Daily Art (Free)
Do you know why van Gogh cut off his ear? Or who is Vermeer’s girl with the pearl earring? With the Daily Art app art will no longer be a secret for you.

Daily Art, which is another free application, highlights an education field that is often neglected… Fine Art. The educational app showcases a new work of art each day. Each piece of art showcased comes with the name of the painting, date that is was released, and information relating to the painter.

Apart from daily showcases, the application also has an art archive. The art archive allows students to search through famous paintings, which include anything from the Eva Prima Pandora to the Elephant Hanno.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

9. Ted Talks
Access riveting talks from some of the world’s most fascinating people — wherever you are. TED’s official Android app presents bold, new thought leadership from education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus, music legends and other remarkable minds.

The app allows students as well as business executives to find thousands of inspiring talks that cover topics surrounding from inspirational, creativity, motivation to human psychology. for those looking to positively affect your knowledge base… this is the app for you.

Some of the most popular talks highlighted on the app include:
– Celeste Headlee: 10 Ways to have a better conversation
– David Gruber: Glow-in-the-dark sharks and other stunning sea creatures
– Linda Liukas: A delightful way to teach kids about computers
– Bono: Three actions for Africa
– Sugata Mitra – The child-driven education

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

10. Today in History Calendar (Free)
If you are the type of student that wants to know what happened on this day in history… then this is the app for you. The app is packed full of interesting facts that relate to this day in history.

History buffs will get to learn about important events that took place on this day in history. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to learn about various events as well as deaths and births that occurred on each day.

Interesting facts provided by the app include:
1878 years ago: The roman emperor Hadrian adopts Antoninus Plus, effectively making him successor.

219 years ago: Colonel William Tate and his force of 1000-1500 soldiers surrender after the last invasion of Britain.

Download on Android Devices
Download on Apple Devices

Apart from the above mentioned Education Apps, IT News Africa also identified the Top 10 Healthcare Apps for Africa – which can be found by clicking here.

Read More at IT news Africa

Technology is a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges in Africa (IT News Africa)

Healthcare in Africa differs widely, depending on the country and also the region—those living in urban areas are more likely to receive better health care services than those in rural or remote regions.  Many communities lack clean water and proper sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas.  This means that illnesses caused by poor hygiene, such as cholera and diarrhoea, are common in some countries.

By Staff Writer: IT News Africa

Mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa.

Heavy demands on health care systems
Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS as well as diseases found mostly in African countries such as elephantiasis, leprosy, polio, helminthiasis and trachoma are rife. Furthermore, there are not enough health workers, hospitals and clinics in Africa. Some African countries lack basic equipment and have inadequate supplies of medicines. Half of Africans do not have access to essential drugs and disruption to daily life and damage to facilities caused by conflict, mean health clinics have an even greater struggle to offer services to local populations.  Diseases then take an even greater toll. Demands on health care systems are also increasing as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.

At a 2001 African Union (AU) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, African countries agreed to allocate 15% of their budgets to healthcare.  To date, only six countries have met this commitment.  Health experts now believe that even if the target is reached, 15% of a small budget is not sufficient to make major inroads into poor health.  Four of the six countries allocating 15% of their budget still spend only 14USD per capita on health.

Technology—a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges
Vuyani Jarana at Vodacom Business says that mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa. “We have developed a range of healthcare solutions using mobile technology specifically to bridge the gap,” he says. To achieve this and leapfrog the global health care systems, it is critical for technology and innovative solutions to be implemented across the continent.

For example, there are mobile applications to:
– Capture patient information making service records more accurate and easily accessible
– Remind patients when they are due back at a clinic for an immunisation visit
– Remind the clinic management to submit an update on stock levels, expiry dates, wastage and stock received.

Jarana believes that technology will be a key driver in helping the continent to overcome some of its biggest healthcare challenges.

Innovative funding mechanisms can provide much needed revenue
Funding remains a monumental problem. Under these difficult circumstances, it is imperative to create new and innovative sources of funding like innovative financing for development, to address the socio-economic development needs of the population, of which health is clearly an urgent priority. According to McKinsey & Company, “innovative” refers to finance mechanisms that might mobilise, govern, or distribute funds beyond traditional donor-country official development assistance (ODA).  New revenue streams will have to be identified to implement or scale up already-existing programmes to address the current health challenges.

The Group contribution
Innovative financing for development has the capability of generating significant amounts of revenue that could either replace or complement existing traditional methods of funding. For instance, innovative funding mechanisms implemented with the assistance of a revenue-assurance expert like Global Voice Group has generated an estimated USD 1.5 billion over the last 10 years, through micro-levies on international telecommunications services.  These revenue-generating opportunities empower African countries to take charge of their own socio-economic development, using their own resources and through the smart integration of ICTs.

Innovative Financing—a game changer for sustainable development
Several developing or emerging countries are already capitalising on innovative financing for development.  For instance, in Haiti, education is being funded through micro-charges on international telephone calls.  By June 2015, more than US$16 million had been generated, allowing the government to provide free quality education to 1.4 million Haitian children.

It is no exaggeration, then, to say that innovative financing for development is a real game changer for sustainable development.  The leveraging of international incoming calls as an innovative funding mechanism has become an important part of the economies of many African countries. However, to make this funding mechanism effective international incoming telecoms traffic must be accurately measured and a revenue-assurance solution put in place to prevent fraud.  GVG’s cutting edge telecommunications governance solutions have assisted many African countries to optimise the revenue generated by international incoming telephone traffic so as to ensure that both the local operators and the government receive their fair share of the revenue.

These revenues can be used to finance social projects like health and education and meet the respective countries’ specific development goals.  This paves the way to more sustainable models of society on the African continent.

Read More at IT News Africa

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Intel to empower women in Africa with online learning platform (IT News Africa)

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Intel Corporation has unveiled an online learning platform, which has been dubbed “Intel She Will Connect: My Digital Journey,” that is aimed at providing an opportunity for women to learn, connect and share online.

Intel revealed that My Digital Journey is a web-based application with gaming mechanics where women are empowered to learn individually or in a facilitated environment, and with the support of a peer network. My Digital Journey uses case scenarios relevant to women in the form of challenges, which gives them the opportunity to practice solutions before moving on to the next level.

by Staff Writer IT News Africa

The platform is a new addition to the Intel She Will Connect programme, which aims to bridge the technology gender gap, to teach young women how to leverage the Internet and technology to pursue their goals.

Intel She Will Connect was introduced as a direct response to findings of the Women and the Web Report, which examined women’s access to and use of the Internet in low- and middle-income countries. The report found that, on average, there are nearly 25% fewer women than men online in developing countries. This represents 200 million fewer women than men online today. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the gap is 43% – the largest across all the regions in the study.

Launching the programme in Nairobi, Intel Corporation’s Vice President, Director of Corporate Affairs, and President Intel Foundation, Ms. Rosalind Hudnell, said: “My Digital Journey provides an opportunity for women and girls in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria to learn about the Internet and benefit from the wealth of information available that will contribute towards achieving their goals and provide access to opportunities.”

Learners on My Digital Journey will receive a digital completion certificate after successfully completing three quests. Each quest comprises between three and six missions. The first mission may take a learner 15 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on reading speed and the thought put into responding to challenges.

“This learning platform provides women and girls with a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and to access additional resources that support learning in a safe environment. Gaining access to the Internet enables women and girls to improve their self-esteem and expression, expand their social and political participation, gain new skills that enable them to obtain formal education, become entrepreneurs or secure employment, and get access to information and new connections within their communities and beyond,” explained Ms. Hudnell.

Intel believes that educating girls and closing the Internet gender gap has an important multiplier effect – expanding opportunities for families, communities and nations.

“Through the Intel Global Girls and Women Initiative, we are working to empower millions of girls and women around the world by closing the gender gap in access to education, inspiring more girls and women to become creators of technology and connecting them to opportunity,” noted Ms. Hudnell.

Also speaking at the launch event, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for eastern and southern Africa, Simone Ellis Oluoch-Olunya, noted that addressing gender equality will unlock the growth potential of the continent.

“Grounded in the vision of equality, UN Women believes that technology can be a game-changer for women and girls. Enhancing women’s economic empowerment is one of the five priority areas of UN Women’s work; therefore, this initiative is one of many UN Women is undertaking to advance women’s economic empowerment and support women, particularly from a technology perspective,’’ added Ms. Oluoch-Olunya.

The Intel She Will Connect programme aims to reduce the Internet gender gap around the world, through an innovative combination of digital literacy training, an online peer network, and gender-relevant content.

The programme has been rolled out in sub-Saharan Africa, where the gap is the greatest, with initial pilots in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

Read More at IT News Africa 

SweepSouth wants more African startups in US accelerators (IT News Africa)

Applications are open for the next batch of 500 Startups companies, and home cleaning platform SweepSouth, which has just returned from its four-month programme in San Francisco, believes that more African entrepreneurs should be taking up the chance.

Aisha Pandor, CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth says, “We are going to be working with Silicon Cape to support other local startups apply to this programme. While the $125k investment was obviously very helpful and we are putting much of that towards expanding our team, it was the exposure to the 500 Startups ecosystem that was the true value of the experience.”

Aisha Pandor, CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth.

As an on-demand service, SweepSouth was matched with companies and mentors with years of experience in the space. “It’s impossible to put a value on what sharing experiences with others in different markets, with different business strategies and plans, has on how we as a team think about our business,” says Pandor.

“In fact, the most important outcome of the four-months has been our connection to a global ecosystem of 500 Startups companies and individuals. We have access to the most incredible people in the 500 Startups network (e.g. Sean Ellis of Growth Hackers, Hiten Shah of Kissmetrics), knowledge and support and have already been able to use it to improve how we approach our next funding round and our growth strategy for the business.”

When discussing 500 Startups, Pandor points out that its focus on including diverse people and startups in its portfolio is another important factor that made the experience so powerful. “Almost 40% of the companies in our batch were from outside the US. Having that global mindset is powerful because it means we don’t just get stuck in valley-thinking.”

Pandor believes that African startups are in an excellent position to take advantage of international opportunities like Y-Combinator and 500 Startups. “The US market is pretty mature and there is a good understanding of how emerging our tech space is by comparison. There are opportunities in Africa and other world markets and don’t exist in the US so the smart investors are starting to look outside America,” says Pandor.

Another benefit of African startups is the aggressive focus on revenue. “A real confidence booster was that when we benchmarked ourselves against other startups in the batch, even when converting Rands to Dollars, we were at a very competitive and respectable level. We believe that it’s because our smaller market means startups need to validate well and to monetize earlier. So in general SA startups solve  very real and relevant problems, and we find out what’s working and what isn’t within a shorter period of time,” says Pandor. This focus on applying their solution to a very relevant local problem was part of what won their pitch a spot as one of TechCrunch’s 9 Favourite Companies to pitch at Demo Day.

When discussing what comes next for SweepSouth, Pandor says, “It’s all about scale. We are want to expand further than the cities we are currently operating in and this is very challenging because as much as we are a technology business, we also put people into homes and businesses and this human experience is critical to our long-term success. One of our first appointments when we got back was a PhD in applied mathematics, to lead our efforts in solving some of the fun and challenging logistical and profile matching problems we’re facing.”

“Our priorities now are working further to make the end to end process as hassle-free for customers as possible, while continuing to ensure that cleaners have access to work opportunities at decent rates,” concludes Pandor.

SweepSouth is currently recruiting software engineers, among other positions. If you’re keen to join a #500Strong company, then click here.

Read More at IT News Africa 

Microsoft Translator to support Kiswahili

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by Staff Writer

Microsoft has unveiled the launch of Kiswahili text translation which is, according to the company, the first African language to be supported by the company’s automatic translation service – Microsoft Translator.

Microsoft revealed that the translation system was created in collaboration with Translators without Borders, a non-governmental organisation whose mission is to increase access to knowledge through humanitarian translations.

According to Microsoft, translation to Kiswahili will be available throughout the Microsoft Translator ecosystem of supported products, thus empowering individuals and organisations through fast and cost-effective translation. The translation system aims at increasing access to knowledge as well as encouraging intercultural communication by creating new language systems.

Kiswahili will also be available as an instant messaging language in Skype for Windows Desktop for real-time communication around the world.

Speaking at the launch, Microsoft’s Kenya Country Manager Kunle Awosika said that through the new translation system, governments in the region will be able to make documents and information available at virtually no cost. In addition, both government and non-governmental organisations will be able to quickly communicate with locals, and most importantly, people will be able to communicate back and forth across borders for both business and personal purposes.

“Adding Kiswahili brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal—permanently breaking down the language barriers that separate us by allowing people to translate anything, anywhere, at any time.  Kiswahili speakers in East Africa and around the globe now have access to a wider range of information and culture, and can interact with speakers of the 50 languages supported by Microsoft Translator. What’s more, speakers of these languages now also have direct access to the rich history and culture of Kiswahili speakers far and wide,” Mr. Awosika concluded.

Kiswahili will also be available as an instant messaging language in Skype for Windows Desktop for real-time communication around the world. In addition, developers will be able to integrate Kiswahili translation into their own products and apps through the Microsoft Translator API.

The IT News Africa