A world of opportunities for Nam youth

The introduction of technology has witnessed people around the world use it as a tool to help them in their day-to-day activities in different aspects of their lives.

In essence, Microsoft Namibia is very eager to work hand-in-hand with the youth and businesses of Namibia to create technological solutions to problems within Namibia.

The company’s mission is to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.

According to Warren La Fleur, - Senior Business Development Manager at Microsoft East and Southern Africa, Namibian youth are very vital in the advancement of Information Technology (IT) in Namibia.

“One of the areas I would like to see develop in Namibia is taking our development platform to students and businesses for them to build unique software solutions for Namibia. There is a huge need for mobile applications in Namibia which presents an opportunity for youth to be innovative in creating technological solutions that can solve real societal problems in the country” he says.

Technology is one of the critical enablers of increased productivity and efficiencies not just for businesses but also for the government. The acceleration in capability has been met with increased expectation that technology can help to transform social issues which affect the lives of people not only in Namibia but also in Africa.

“Our overall strategy is to think about software as a vehicle and as a tool, which can be used to broaden the reach, the depth, and the enhancement of companies and individuals within the continent. To some degree, reminiscing about our journey in Africa, which commenced in 1992 when the first office was opened, we are at an adolescent stage at the moment, so we are not grown up as yet - this is still work in progress,” he adds.

La Fleur says, “Africa is at the tipping point, meaning the growth of the continent can be rapidly accelerated. There are significantly visible challenges and the constraints around infrastructure but over the last three years with the advent of WACS and the investment Government is putting into broadband infrastructure, we think that’s an indication of how Africa can leverage these things.”

The youth of Africa are beginning to participate much more aggressively in defining how Africa should look like in terms of technology and the evolution of the continent going forward. The youth are actively involved, particularly in East Africa where they use software programmes to build solutions that are Africa relevant and really make a fundamental improvement in the lives of Africans. For example, M-Pesa (mobile banking) application is Africa-born, developed in Kenya.

Microsoft commends itself on how it is making progress in a number of areas while working hand-in-hand with its partners to build on technical knowledge so that customers can take the platform and do even more with it. They recently started a project with the Polytechnic of Namibia to help the IT students of the institution extend their potential.

“Last year we opened a technical education centre in partnership with the Polytechnic of Namibia to ensure that as students graduate from the Polytechnic, they learn not only the theory but also the practical applications, which they can immediately find use for as they enter into the working environment,” he beams adding that: “One of the ideas we would like to explore is what we call ‘visiting lecturers’.

We have computer experts who frequently come to Namibia, so we would like to use that opportunity to get hold of these people while they are here to go into institutions of higher learning and give lectures on different topics of interest or expose the students to the different opportunities within Microsoft. They would also have to talk about newly developed theories within IT, which can be very helpful to them.”

According to La Fleur, there is an acceleration of economic growth rate in Africa as people in Africa realise the advantages of IT. Microsoft Namibia’s wish is to see the growth of internet penetration in the country. If the internet penetration is increased, it would mean more people would be online, therefore, more people would have to use the extensive internet information to learn about different things and that would be a good thing for Namibia.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the company is that of substantial infrastructure. IT requires infrastructure to run effectively; power and broadband being two of the major infrastructure. Microsoft is constrained by the development of the infrastructure as they think about the mission of fulfilling the goals of Vision 2030 on Information Technology.

Microsoft as a platform company makes applications and extends to the very unique needs of its customers. It makes database products; relational database management systems where one can build business intelligence applications.

The company also makes communication and collaboration products or platform products, which enable e-mails, video conferencing, etc. Gaming and mobile applications, for example the x-box windows, phone applications, etc, are also some of the things it does.

According to La Fleur, there is an opportunity for university students to register to become Microsoft partners for free and then develop their skills and capabilities as well as their competencies. Career guidance is also one other factor Microsoft would like to look at where university students are helped to choose a path within IT since it’s a very broad topic.

“There is a very huge possibility for new partners to be brought on board and we encourage a lot of women to get involved in IT. I would like to see female graduates getting registered and certified in the Microsoft programme and using the opportunity to develop unique solutions. This has the likelihood to improve their quality of life and help other Namibians realise their potentials,” says La Fleur.

Microsoft Namibia uses people’s capabilities to grow its platform while helping them realising their dreams and reach their potential. La Fleur encourages young entrepreneurs to take up the platform and find opportunities to develop applications which are locally relevant. He also urges them to create new intellectual property that they can use for their own benefit.

There is a link between developments within Microsoft’s mandate, specifically around local solutions because whenever one thinks about development, they like to think about local solutions and local relevance. The introduction of the 4G by MTC and WACS by Telecom Namibia is an indication of those developments.

As soon as you take a platform, apply critical thinking to it and local innovative energy, solutions can actually emerge, which uniquely responds to development challenges within the country, concludes La Fleur. PF