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Monday, November 28, 2011

First Microsoft Innovation Centre opens at Makerere University

By Esther Nakkazi

A new Microsoft centre designed to promote the development of innovation and growth of the Ugandan software economy has been opened in Makerere University. 

The facility, an extension of the global Microsoft Innovation Centre network, is the result of a partnership agreement between United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Microsoft.

The Microsoft Innovation Centre will act as incubator for innovation; technology training and industry skill transfer and actively contribute to economic growth and prosperity in Uganda.

“I am pleased to note that this Centre is yet another deliverable within the UNIDO–Microsoft partnership. I am confident that prospective employers from both, the public and privates sector, will value the contribution that this Centre can make to skill development, particularly for the youth,” said the UNIDO Regional Director for East Africa, David Tommy.

The centre will provide assistance and resources to small and medium sized enterprises to create new and innovative products and services, bring those products to the market and improve their business competitiveness. 

It will also provide support to small and medium enterprises and independent software vendors, as well as develop better student collaboration, provide support for new start-up companies, and act as the test laboratory Centre for the development of software projects.

“Offering these opportunities to the local community is an important step to encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Louis Otieno, General Manager for Microsoft East and Southern Africa.

“We envision that the Centre will boost the local software developer industry, driving increased availability of highly skilled and proficient ICT users as well as developer skills in the country. By fostering innovation, together we can ultimately drive growth in the local and regional economy.”

Microsoft works globally with partners from the public sector, academic institutions and industry to promote innovation. The Microsoft Innovation Centres- more than 90 of them world-wide- are a central component of this innovation drive, which provides effective support for the local software markets.

They do not carry out research themselves but offer a research and development platform for partners working in innovative sectors, helping to foster innovation in their local country, in their region and across the globe.

Uganda’s first Microsoft Innovation Centre will focus on skills development, aiming to educate local students to help improve their professional IT knowledge and gain real project experience before graduating.

“It will provide young entrepreneurs, students, developers and researchers in the local community access to expert information and high-tech equipment for testing and developing the latest technologies built on the Microsoft platform,”said Otieno.

Another key goal of the Centre will be helping developers and IT professionals learn about the latest technologies, stimulating technology innovation and driving the local software economy to boost national competitiveness.

“This is a major milestone for our country particularly for the young people who now have a world-class facility to hone their ICT skills. Uganda has continued to experience significant growth in terms of GDP, investment, employment and tax revenue in the ICT sector and the Microsoft Innovation Centre is definitely going to play a big role in bolstering the continued growth of the sector.” said the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Ruhakana Rugunda.

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