Microsoft in deal to promote technology use

At its Government Leaders Forum in Cape Town, the software giant gathered several African heads of state who will join Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and former US president Bill Clinton today in deliberations over how technology can improve the continent’s global competitiveness.

The two organisations will work together to provide entrepreneurs with more business support services and technology facilities in community technology centres.

The first step will be to develop training courses and business services that can be delivered online to the community centres.

Other technologies available will include local language versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, with software “overlays” available to translate the system into Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana and Swahili.

Those four language conversion kits would allow 150-million Africans to work with technology in their own language, Microsoft said.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said yesterday all African countries had a similar need to use technology to increase their productivity and competitiveness and to educate and empower citizens.

Mrs Mlambo-Ngcuka said most higher education institutes in South Africa struggled to find good teachers and many had to cut corners to survive.

Better collaboration with the private sector could help ensure that students were taught what the private sector needed, she said.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said technology training had to become a core part of the education system from an early stage.

Private foreign companies must also cut the cost of technologies to make them more affordable, he said, as people living on less than US$1 a day could not spend two years’ salary on a computer.

“Microsoft is working on ways to improve the affordability of technology and we hope we will soon see its fruits,” he said.

Education Minister Naledi Pandor said African countries had to treble the number of young people succeeding in mathematics and natural science if it was to build a viable research community.

The minister saved her criticism for South Africa’s educational infrastructure, saying that a lack of skills was handicapping basic economic progress.

Another barrier was the high cost of software.

Recent studies had made it clear that Africa required massive investments in education, and Africa’s universities, laboratories and colleges needed recapitalising.

The South African government tries by all means to ensure that computer education and technology is used by all and sundry to boost economic development. ‘ Business Day.

July 2006
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