Microsoft Supports Africa Ecommerce Portal to Bring Economies Online
Microsoft 4Afrika has teamed up with Skrill in a marketing alliance to launch a new ecommerce portal which will integrate mobile network operators to enable Africans usage of their mobile wallets to buy from global internet brands, access free educational content and use Microsoft software.
This new form of partnership between mobile payment systems, network operators and merchants is the first of its kind in Africa and was announced at the 17th annual AfricaCom conference. The portal will be fully live by December 2014.
Nilesh Pandya, SVP of emerging markets at Skrill, said: “Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent, with cities enjoying strong levels of wireless and data coverage. It has the world’s most youthful populations and we know that it is the younger generations that are often first to embrace technology.
“Disposable incomes are rapidly increasing, making discretionary spend on e-commerce an immediate reality. These conditions deliver the perfect storm for a massive surge in consumer demand for digital payments.
“However, a high percentage of Africans remain unbanked and so have no means of paying for global online brands. Even banked Africans often find that global online merchants are reluctant to serve these markets for credit and debit card transactions due to perceived fraud risks.”
Skrill enables users to make instant, secure payments using mobile wallets from which customers can buy products and services from the company’s global network of merchants; including video on demand business iROKOtv, music download and streaming business Spinlet and a range of social gaming providers.
By logging into the portal, consumers are also given access to product offers and discounts on goods and services exclusively available through this purchase route and their mobile provider.
Via the portal, Microsoft will be providing free access to One Drive, as well as Outlook email addresses so that users can register accounts with the relevant merchants, and is the latest offering in an initiative which is already providing free access to educational content, from basic numeracy games to courses on app development through its virtual academy.
Entrepreneurs in Africa will now have the tools required to build online businesses that Skrill will enable them to monetise.
Frank McCosker, General Manager, Affordable Access and Smart Financing, Microsoft 4Afrika, said: “As part of 4Afrika’s effort towards affordable access, this portal seeks to bring Africa’s offline economies online, enabling the continent to take part in the global digital revolution, which in turn, will drive innovation, inclusion, skills and trade.
“Africa continues to be a breeding ground for major innovations that extend to the world stage. With monetisation being a priority, the offline economy cannot be ignored.”
According to a World Bank study, in low- and middle-income countries every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration, accelerates economic growth by 1.38 percent.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”