Microsoft has stepped up its commitment to the digital transformation of the public sector in Africa, joining government decision makers from across the continent at the Transform Africa 'Smart Cities: Fast Forward' summit, in Kigali.
Microsoft addressed its mission of empowering the education, health, public finance and shared services sectors through digital transformation, unveiling key solutions, chief among them the development of its low-cost internet technology, TV white spaces.
“It is vital that the private and public sectors come together to ensure Africa’s most pressing issues, in areas including health, education and e-government, are addressed through digital transformation,” said Sebuh Haileleul, Country Manager Microsoft East & Southern Africa.
Rwanda hosted the three-day event, attended by stakeholders from public and private organizations, to foster collaboration to build a Smart Africa and seek policy and opportunities to accelerate the continent towards socio economic transformation.
Microsoft and its public and private sector partners have developed TV white space (TVWS) technologies to use the unused space in terrestrial TV spectrums to provide cheap Internet connectivity to remote areas. Unlike Wi-Fi that typically has a 100-metre radius, TV white space propagates signals across a radius of up to 10km, and is more affordable.
Mawingu, a local Internet service provider in Nanyuki, Kenya, is using TV white spaces to provide Internet access to rural communities at rates as low as $3 per month There are another 14 TV white space connectivity projects running in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Ghana and South Africa, which are fueling multiple e-service initiatives.
Through the Microsoft in Education Transformation Program and the ministry of education in Rwanda’s SMART classroom programme, significant strides have been made towards digital transformation, with thousands of Rwandan teachers and students now having access to technology.
Thousands of Positivo laptops have been manufactured locally, with 60,000 electronic devices allocated to the Rwanda Education Board for distribution in schools. Furthermore, the ministry has successfully upgraded 80,000 of these devices to Windows 10 and has installed MS Office Professional Plus. Additionally, 29,000 students at the University of Rwanda have received new digital identities through which they will be able to explore learning opportunities anywhere and anytime.
In addition to the Education Transformation Programme, Microsoft is also committed to spearheading other projects in Rwanda such as:
The Internet of Thinga (IoT) and cloud technology are also revolutionising healthcare by tracking and organising patient information, tracking medical shipments and inventory, and connecting medical equipment, such as heart-rate monitors.
In Ethiopia, for example, a partnership between Microsoft and Tulane University has seen more than 3,000 healthcare institutions across 10 regions launch a locally run and managed e-health system, using Windows-based mobile applications to gather data and store it in the cloud.
Patients can now walk into any one of these clinics using a biometric scanner to check in. The clinic immediately picks up whether or not the patient has visited before, and the doctor can access the patient’s full digital medical record. After the examination, the patient’s prescription is sent wirelessly to the nearest pharmacy.
The e-health system is also helping the public health department keep track of high priority diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
In Botswana, Microsoft and its partners are now deliver lifesaving, specialised telemedicine services at local clinics using a cloud-based system.
Another successful digital transformation story is that of Botswana Postal Services (BotswanaPost). BotswanaPost upgraded its entire IT infrastructure with the help of Microsoft Services. In just 18 months, it deployed a private cloud, upgraded core infrastructure software and rolled out new communications services. This resulted in a sharp increase in revenue for BotswanaPost.
In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) partnered with Microsoft and SAP to launch an e-service platform to provide fiscal services, allowing new registrations, submission of tax returns, the sending of queries and requests, and the checking of account status.
“By 2020, 25% of the world’s economy will be digital,” said Haileleul. “A digitally transformed government will help support informal employment, attract foreign direct investment, improve two-way communications with citizens and automate information sharing in parliament. It is up to government leaders and policy makers across the continent to harness the power of cloud, to transform people’s lives for the better.”