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IBM ramps up in Rabat

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IBM has announced the expansion of its operations in Morocco with the opening of an expanded location in the administrative capital, Rabat, doubling its presence in the kingdom.

This is IBM’s second subsidiary in Morocco, enhancing the company’s existing Casablanca operation and strengthening IBM’s ability to provide solutions and services to a rapidly expanding base of customers and partners.

The new office in Rabat is part of a broad program of investment that IBM is making across Africa, covering the opening of new branches and facilities, the recruitment of new staff and business partners and investment in training, marketing and citizenship programs. Through its geographic expansion initiative, IBM is ramping up its presence in cities and regions where there is significant opportunity for growth and where businesses and government organizations are turning to IT to transform their operations and increase competitiveness.

Morocco has the most dynamic economy in North Africa, with a GDP growth rate of 4.5% in 2011. (Source : World Bank)

‚”IBM is placing a strong emphasis on investment in Morocco as we recognize the opportunities presented by high growth rates and an increasingly competitive market. By strengthening our presence in Rabat, we are able to offer the most advanced technologies and solutions to our local partners and clients – helping them to do things smarter and more efficiently,‚” said Abdallah Rachidi Alaoui, IBM General Manager, Morocco.

The announcement follows the recent news of the opening of the IBM Africa Research laboratory in Kenya and a new office in Mauritius. IBM has a direct presence in more than 20 African countries including South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

‚”The Moroccan Government recognises the important role that IBM is playing in the development of IT and establishment of Morocco as a modern IT market. We strongly believe that IBM will continue to support the modernization of our IT sector through its technologies and initiatives, and this office opening marks an important commitment to the Moroccan Kingdom,‚” said Abdelkader Amara, Minister of Industry, Commerce and New Technologies.

One of IBM’s existing clients in Rabat is the Ministry of Economy and Finance. IBM has been a reliable partner for its e-government strategy and the ministry relies on IBM solutions to support the modernisation of its services to citizens and businesses. For example, the Customs and Excise Office (ADII) has implemented an online process for customs clearance and the Tax Department (DGI) as well as the General Treasury of the Kingdom (TGR) have online tax payment systems.

‚”We have put in place a range of online services, thanks to IBM’s technologies. These services allow citizens and private businesses a significant gain in time and efficiency. Moroccan citizens can pay taxes or income returns online, and a company can clear goods through customs in a simple click,‚” said Nizar Baraka, Minister of Economy and Finance.

IBM has been serving customers in Morocco since 1932, when IBM installed the first equipment at the Moroccan Statistics Department, and the country also boasts Africa’s first IBM Innovation and Technical Exploration Centres, opened in Casablanca in 2008. Other IBM customers in Morocco include the Ministry of the Interior, Cr√©dit Agricole, Barid Al Maghrib (Moroccan Post), AttijariWafaBank, BMCE and BCP.

Earlier this year, a team of IBM experts provided Moroccan government leaders with recommendations for the implementation of a more efficient public transport system for Rabat and nearby Sale and Temara by 2020. Rabat beat 140 other cities around the world to become one of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge winners for 2012. As part of the IBM Smarter Cities challenge grant, a team of top employees were sent to live in Rabat for three weeks to create a plan for an improved public transport system compatible with current government initiatives. Rabat was one of three African cities and 33 cities worldwide selected by IBM to receive Smarter Cities challenge grants.

Elsewhere in North Africa, IBM also has locations in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, and operations include a Global Process Delivery Center in Cairo, Egypt, and additional strategic locations – including a Technology Development Center, Global Service Delivery Center, and Arabic Competence Center in the Egyptian capital.

The opening of the new Rabat office was recognised this week at a ceremony attended by government officials, customers, and business partners.

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Africa gets broadband boost

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ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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