In December 2016 Microsoft renewed its Affordable Access Initiative grant fund to assist companies working to bring internet access and new technologies to underserved markets.
“The social enterprises we support have inspired us with practical, high-impact and scalable approaches to help close the digital divide,” said Microsoft Affordable Access Initiatives Director Paul Garnett, writing in NextBillion. “It’s a privilege to see these solutions take shape, and to play a role in helping local entrepreneurs spur job creation and economic growth.”
In the fund’s first round of investments, Microsoft awarded grants to 12 businesses offering affordable internet access or cloud-based services in fields such as power generation, health, education, finance and agriculture.
AirJaldi, a 2016 grant recipient, provides high-quality Wi-Fi broadband connectivity at reasonable rates to more than 90,000 public- and private-sector clients in rural India. Vista Africa, another recipient from last year, is a cloud-based software platform that helps healthcare providers more easily screen, track and treat patients’ health in areas where connectivity is limited.
In addition to receiving funding and software to help power and develop their businesses, grant recipients will join a growing ecosystem of other grantees and funders to further increase their impact.
This initiative is also connected to the work of Microsoft Philanthropies, which is helping to bring technology’s benefits to those who need them most. Microsoft Philanthropies is making its digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available to grant recipients and the communities they serve.
“Too many people around the world lack internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies. “Affordable Access Initiative grants, and the technology ecosystems they help support, empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity, which then enables the creation of critical services for those who need it most.”
How to apply
Applicants must be commercial organizations with two or more full-time employees and have a prototype of a working solution and preferably paying customers. Such products and business models might combine new cloud services and applications, low-cost forms of internet connectivity, and new payment mechanisms designed for consumers and smaller businesses in underserved markets. A list of criteria, and the application, can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/affordable-access-initiative/home.
Showmax launches half-price mobile streaming service
A new streaming product designed specifically for Africa, featuring TV series as well as African content and live sport, is aimed at filling the gap in subscription video on demand services
The subscription video on demand (SVoD) model, which originated in the USA, spread rapidly in countries where uncapped broadband is affordable and widely available. However, because the model also relies on consumers being comfortable with transacting online and having ready access to credit cards, it has barely scratched the surface across Africa.
On top of that, smartphones are often the only only form of Internet access across Africa, and none of the popular SVoD services have been designed for the format.
Showmax says it plans to change this with the launch of a new mobile plan that costs 50% of the standard Showmax package but still features 100% of the same video content. Showmax is set apart by a combination of four pillars: hit African content, exclusive international series, topkids’ shows, and live sport, including weekly matches from the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, and Spain’s La Liga.
Showmax says the new plan is aimed at consumers who only use smartphones and tablets to watch video content. Video resolution peaks at standard definition to help reduce data consumption. As it is a product aimed at individuals, only one concurrent stream is included in the plan. As with the regular service, it is also available for a 14-day free trial.
“This is all about an African service developing a solution that meets the needs of African consumers,” saus Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. “Customer feedback consistently points to local content and sport as some of the things that people value most from Showmax. That’s of course on top of the international series, movies, and kids’ shows that are our bread and butter. With all of that content now available in a product designed specifically for mobile usage, we’re doing something no other service can offer.
“On top of that, with groundbreaking deals like our new offer with Vodacom in South Africa, we solve the credit card issue through add-to-bill payment and the data issue by including data directly in the package. We’re looking to launch similar offers in Kenya and Nigeria soon.”
Both the standard and mobile plans include live sport, sport magazine shows and sport documentaries. The 2019 Rugby World Cup Final was streamed live on Showmax earlier this month, and the following is a selection of some of the football due to be live-streamed in November:
22 November: Levante vs Mallorca (La Liga)
23 November: Arsenal vs Southampton (Premier League)
24 November: Bologna vs Parma (Serie A)
25 November: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United (Premier League)
29 November: Celta Vigo vs Valladolid (La Liga)
30 November: Fiorentina vs Lecce (Serie A)
30 November: Chelsea vs West Ham United (Premier League)
Showmax’s mobile plan is currently available in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Comparison of Showmax plans:
|Price per month||R49 / N1450 / KSh 375||R99 / N2900 / KSh 750|
|Watch on smartphone or tablet||Yes||Yes|
|Watch on smart TV and computer||No||Yes|
|TV series, movies, kids’ shows||Yes||Yes|
|14-day free trial||Yes||Yes|
|Chromecast and AirPlay||No||Yes|
|Number of devices||One registered device||5 devices can be registered, with 2 able to stream at the same time|
For a 14-day free trial, visit www.showmax.com.
Online series wins SA’s Journalist of the Year award
A series of stories on gang warfare in Hanover Park earned Tammy Petersen of News24 the ultimate prize in South African journalism. Here are all the winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards.
At the 18th edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards held at Vodacom World earlier tonight, News24’s Tammy Petersen took top honours and the R100,000 grand prize as national winner for her body of work on a gang war series entitled When you live in Hanover Park, you know death. Petersen’s submission was one of over 1,000 entries received from around the country across 12 categories – Investigative, Opinion, Lifestyle, Photography, Sport, Economics, Politics, CSI, Live reporting/ breaking news, Data Journalism, Multi-platform and the Young Journalist of the Year Award. This year’s theme – Connect the Dots – pays tribute to the best-of-the-best of those entries.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group says: “This year has seen extraordinary entries to the 18th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards. Not all the stories that are national winners were about huge events but also showed the importance of telling the stories of ordinary people. In line with our theme, the dots were indeed connected, and we congratulate all the winners.”
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The quality of entries has convinced the judges once again that our industry is in good hands, as far as journalism is concerned, despite the many problems that have beset the industry in recent times. Judging from the entries, South African journalists are determined to fly the flag high for a free, independent, and vigorous media, which augurs well for our democracy. As judges, we can only salute all the entrants for the great work that they submitted. In the end, our industry is probably the biggest winner.”
Judges for this year’s awards are: Ryland Fisher (convenor), Jermaine Craig, Arthur Goldstuck, Albe Grobbelaar, Franz Kruger, Patricia McCracken, Mapi Mhlangu, Collin Nxumalo, Mary Papayya, and Obed Zilwa.
Visit the next page for the full list of winners and their citations.