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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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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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SAP CEO heralds Skills for Africa

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Coinciding with Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe’s visit to Johannesburg, SAP announced the launch of a formal skills development program in Africa.

The ‚”Skills for Africa‚” program is aimed at developing information and communications technology (ICT) skills in Africa as part of SAP’s global mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. SAP’s social investment strategy is focused on promoting education and entrepreneurship.

With growth and the scarcity of skills on the African continent top of mind, this program ‚Äî a first of its kind in the industry in Africa ‚Äî will offer selected students across the continent the opportunity to develop world-class IT and business skills, effectively giving them an opportunity to play a role in contributing toward Africa’s future economic growth and infrastructure development.

This program represents the African chapter of SAP’s ‚”EMEA Workforce of the Future‚” campaign, focused on examining European, Middle Eastern and African (EMEA) trends, needs and opportunities vital to the successful recruitment, retention and training of the technology industry’s workforce of the future. In support of this effort, several other activities are underway across Europe, most notably the Academy Cube project, which helps students in the EU prepare for ‚”Industry 4.0,‚” the fourth industrial revolution where products will soon be expected to be able to communicate and act autonomously with one another in intelligently networked production processes.

Along with partners and customers, SAP Africa will drive the Skills for Africa program around its strategic hubs, namely South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, to be followed by ancillary countries such as Ivory Coast and Mauritius. Focusing initially on key industries including public and financial sectors, utilities and oil and gas, the Skills for Africa’s program aims to create a rich talent pool in Africa for the entire SAP ecosystem. The program is targeted at students who have been identified in collaboration with the government in each of the focus countries.

To support the ambitious rollout of the program, a 56-strong partner base has also been established throughout Africa to maintain momentum. Due to the vast geographical area identified and in the interest of providing the best experience to students and a view to future employment, SAP will be closely aligned with the partner ecosystem in Africa for the rollout to help ensure a successful outcome.

Enabling Skills without Internet Access Skills for Africa training will comprise a hybrid approach of classroom and e-learning. The unique self-study e-learning environment will allow students to study when and how it suits them without requiring Internet access: a key factor in many of the locations in question. To kick off this phase of the roll-out of the program, SAP Africa today also is launching training kits that include printed course material and a data-encrypted dongle, a USB which is valid for the period of the course duration. In the interest of negating piracy, the dongle will be de-activated automatically after the validity period of the course. The kits will be available in English, French and Portuguese across the relevant countries.

‚”Securing a highly skilled workforce in Africa is key to ongoing success. Not only is SAP committed to the countries in which it does business: programs of this nature make solid business sense,‚” said Snabe. ‚”SAP sees huge opportunities for Africa and the multi-million Euro investment into this program over the next five years is indicative of our commitment. Bearing in mind that the unemployment rate varies from 25.5 percent in South Africa to almost 48 percent in Senegal, there is a distinct requirement for business to help develop an appropriate skills base, especially when taking into account the enormous growth opportunity for Africa from an infrastructure perspective.‚”

The Skills for Africa program has been crafted to meet the needs of the complex African skills landscape and to take infrastructure into consideration to ensure ease of use and learning in challenging environments. The pilot phase for the program has been successfully kicked off in Kenya in October of 2012, with over 100 students soon to be trained. Over the next five years, SAP plans to roll out the program to Nigeria, Senegal, Angola and South Africa. The program will target on average 100 students per year, per country, which will result in 2,500 previously unskilled students to be educated in the much sought-after SAP skills sphere. A second phase of the rollout is planned to extend to an additional set of countries, including Mauritius and the Ivory Coast.

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