Posted by Dele Akinsade
Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
It’s that time of the year again: the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition season is in full swing, with local finals taking place across the continent. The competition brings together student innovators from every corner of the globe to showcase their great ideas for new apps -- and this year the competition is stiffer than ever.
The winning prize pot is a life-changing USD $300,000 – enough to encourage any student developer to put their head down and do some serious coding! But, as clichéd as it might sound, winning isn’t everything at Imagine Cup. The experience of presenting to a panel of expert judges, taking your idea from concept to marketplace, networking with like-minded developers from across the world, and of course, all the fun that’s to be had – is a once in a lifetime, life-changing experience.
As always, I’m most excited to see what innovations come out of Africa, and which teams make it through to the Worldwide Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia this July. Last year, teams from Egypt and Algeria won awards and Team Cipher256 from Uganda won a Grant Award for WinSenga – a handheld device that can scan a pregnant woman’s womb to monitor baby movements and detect ectopic pregnancy or abnormal foetal heartbeats. This innovation addresses a local challenge in Uganda – lack of access to affordable antenatal care. But it also has the potential to be used in many countries in Africa, and other parts of the world. This is exactly the kind of ‘exchange’
that we referred to when we launched the 4Afrika Initiative, which is built on the belief that “technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world”. And while Team Cipher256 didn’t walk away with a prize at the finals, they received $50 000 through the Grant Award program, which is driven by Microsoft YouthSpark, an initiative that aims to help young people pursue an education, find employment, and foster entrepreneurship.
I urge all African students to envisage new ways of using technology to tackle the challenges that Africa – and the world- faces. You never know, next year you could be flown to an exciting location to be a part of the 2014 Worldwide Finals! And don’t forget to stay tuned to the Microsoft Africa Facebook page and @MicrosoftAfrica Twitter handle for updates on the African teams competing at this year’s