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MS wants black-owned software

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Microsoft South Africa has launched a nationwide search for small black-owned software product development firms to join its enterprise development programme.

The company today kicked off a public Request for Proposal (RFP) process for new firms looking to become part of its multi-million rand Equity Equivalent Programme (EEP), which has already seen five small companies two of which are female-owned – grow dramatically since the launch of the programme in March 2011. Entries close on 11 October 2013.

The focus areas for the RFP will be in the education, healthcare, consumer, safety and security, mobility, cloud computing, big data and social business sectors, where Microsoft managing director Mteto Nyati believes technology can make a clear difference to current levels of service delivery.

Nyati said the programme is not aimed at providing start-up capital, but rather at turbo-charging the growth of existing companies that have potential. In the process, it will address several of the key challenges facing the country: creating jobs, developing small enterprises, building the local software economy and developing scarce technology skills.

‚”We’re more than two years into the programme, and our current five companies have already made huge strides in developing new business models, creating jobs, and reaching out to new markets,‚” said Nyati. ‚”Our investment to date has focused on fuelling innovation in high-growth areas that are currently underserved, including safety and security, healthcare, consumer, mobility and cloud computing.‚”

One of the original beneficiaries of the programme, Home-Grown Business Integrations, moved from KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg to take advantage of new business opportunities generated by its partnership with the EEP.

The company’s Lehalima Utility Management System has helped provide convenient electricity access to houses across the country, and CEO Thaisi Shale’s vision is to be the leading utility management service provider in Africa by 2018. ‚”And we’re not stopping there. We are ready to do even more amazing things and have already started the journey to expand our offerings to the global stage,‚” said Shale.

iSolv Technologies, which creates solutions around Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), encryption and secure communication, says its partnership with Microsoft has seen it grow into one of the country’s leading ICT security solutions and monitoring suppliers. ‚”To date, we’ve been able to strengthen our internal infrastructure, increase our developer headcount and invest in a number of key assets,‚” said iSolv CEO Jayesh Nana.

Maxxor was already established in the mobile gaming market when it joined the programme in 2011, but director Raj Moodaley says the company has since moved into the field of B2B mobile sales apps and B2C mobile commerce solutions. ‚”We’ve just launched our flagship product into the Microsoft Windows App Store, and we’re setting our sights on new markets such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,‚” said Moodaley.

The RFP is open to small, black-owned software companies across South Africa with a maximum of 50 employees and a maximum turnover of R15 million a year. For more information about the programme, its current beneficiaries and how to apply, companies can go to www.microsofteep.co.za or SMS ‚”Microsoft‚” to 44269 to check if they are eligible.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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Triggerfish launches free digital learning Academy online

Platform designed for anyone wanting to understand more about career opportunities in animation.

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Triggerfish, in partnership with Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has launched Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities and how to get started in the field of animation. 

The website features 25 free video tutorials, quizzes and animation exercises introducing animation as a career and the principles of storytelling, storyboarding and animation, as well as several additional resources to help guide aspiring animators into a career in animation. 

“The South African animation industry is growing – and so is the demand for skilled animators globally,” said Noemie Njangiru, head of Culture and Development at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, pointing to  the success of recent Triggerfish projects like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes; Mama K’s Team 4, recently announced by Netflix as their first original animated series from Africa; and this year’s New York Children’s Festival and Shanghai International Film and TV Festival winner Zog.  

Njangiru also highlighted the opportunities for animation outside the traditional film industry, within fields like advertising, app and web design, architecture, engineering, gaming, industrial design, medicine, and the motor industry, not to mention growth sectors like augmented reality and virtual reality

The course was created by Tim Argall, currently the animation director on Triggerfish’s third feature film, Seal Team. He’s roped in many of the South African animation industry’s brightest stars, from Malcolm Wope, character designer on Mama K’s Team 4, and Annike Pienaar, now working at Illumination in Paris on Sing 2, to Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the multi-award-winning BBC adaptations Stick Man and Zog, and Faghrie Coenraad, lead dressing and finaling artist on the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, as well as Triggerfish head of production Mike Buckland. The featured talent share not just their skills but also their stories, from how they broke the news they wanted to be animators to their parents, to common myths about the animation industry. 

“As kids, animation is part of our lives, so we don’t really think about the idea that animation is actually somebody’s job,” said Argall. “When I was a kid, I loved animation and I loved to draw. I remember when I was about 12, I thought: ‘I really want to see my drawings come to life. I want to be an animator.’ But I had no idea where to even begin.” 

Triggerfish Academy is his attempt to make it easier for the next generation of African animators: an accessible starter kit for anyone considering a career in animation. 

“By the end of working through this course, you’ll have all the background you need to know whether animation is a good choice for your career,” said Njangiru.  

Aspiring animators can also use Triggerfish Academyto learn how to write and animate their own short story, then post their animation on the Academy’s Facebook group for feedback and advice from professional animators. 

Triggerfish Academy is set up so that youth can play with it directly, but it’s also been designed to double as an activity plan for teachers, NGOs and after school programmes to use. Schools, organisations and other animation studios who are interested in using it can contact Triggerfish for additional free classroom resources.

Triggerfish Academy is just one of a number of Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators, like sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme. For more information, visit www.triggerfish.com/academy.  

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