Team TAWI, winners in the education category of the 2023 Imagine Cup world finals qualifying round have gone on to win the World Championship. The team qualified from 48 competing global teams to be selected among the top 3 to compete in the World Championship at Microsoft Build. They win the grand prize of USD 100,000, a mentorship session with Microsoft’s Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, and Level 2 access to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.
They faced winning teams from the Americas and Asia regions; Eupnea from the United States, and CS-M Tool from Thailand, respectively. Winning the competition showcasing their solution that seeks to help people with auditory processing disorder communicate more easily. It leverages speech recognition tools from Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI Whisper to enhance speech, reduce background noise, and transcribe speech to text in real-time.
New research from Microsoft reveals that attackers are increasingly making use of operational technology to gain new entryways into company networks.
Microsoft’s latest Cyber Signals report highlights how cybercriminals are using Operational Technology (OT) as gateways into an organization’s network. This comes at a time when IoT connections in the region are growing with the GSMA predicting that 1.1 billion IoT connections are expected by 2025 in MENA. It’s this growth in OT and IoT that has given cybercriminals more opportunities to breach an organization’s network.
Microsoft’s Cyber Signals report is a regular cyberthreat intelligence brief spotlighting security trends and insights gathered from Microsoft’s 65 trillion daily security signals and 8,500 security experts. The latest edition has found that converging IT, Internet of Things (IoT) and OT systems pose a wider risk to critical infrastructure.
For CIOs in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), the impact of a possible security breach is top of mind in an increasingly complex threat environment. This can be seen in the 11.2 percent rise in cybersecurity spending in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for 2022.
The growing rate of digital transformation within the African region is facilitating the emergence of new attack vectors and opportunities for cybercriminals. The Kenyan government has identified cybersecurity as a key enabler for digital economy. Kenya faces increased cybersecurity challenges and risks that threaten national security and the country’s digital transformation agenda. Cybersecurity statistics indicate that the number of cyber threats detected in Kenya has significantly increased in the last three years. The Communications Authority of Kenya reported 278,030,354 threats detected in the period from July to September 2022, an increase of 99.478% from threats detected between April to June of the same year.
The increase in digital transformation across the region has enabled organizations to manage their buildings, emergency systems and access control with smart devices connected to a network. In addition, we have seen an increase in IoT devices in the workplace to better enable hybrid work such as smart conference rooms with microphones and cameras.
As the threat landscape continues to expand and become more complex, organizations need to rethink their cyber risk approach to stay one step ahead of would-be attackers. Cyber Signals found that there are currently over 1 million connected devices publicly visible on the Internet running Boa, an outdated and unsupported software still widely used in IoT devices and software development kits.
“Organizations are more connected than ever before. From the humble Wi-Fi router to the everyday office printer, IT teams need to view their IoT devices differently and secure them as they would any company laptop to prevent security breaches,” says Phyllis Migwi, Country Manager for Microsoft Kenya. “Gaining complete visibility of an organization’s OT systems and protecting its IoT solutions will go a long way in preventing cyberattacks.”
Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office (ATO) is announcing a two-day Xbox Game Studios Game Camp in Africa. To empower African creators to realize their potential in the gaming industry through unique learning experiences from industry leaders. The conference will run from July 15th – 16th, 2023.
The two full days events are themed “The Journey of a Game” and will offer multiple perspectives on the complex craft of game development. In addition, there will be online learning components to the camp, which will allow participants to engage with focused training modules on topics that align closely with their skills and interests, before and after the event.
While the camp is available online for all registered campers, Game Camp will also host in-person viewing events for 100 selected campers at the Microsoft campuses in Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi. These sites will offer viewing parties on-site panel sessions and opportunities to meet with Microsoft and Xbox personnel. Furthermore, teams or individuals with games to pitch are encouraged to do so.
To participate, individuals must be of legal age, reside in any country on the African continent, and be studying or working part or full-time in the field of software development, visual arts, 3D, music and audio, web design, narrative design, or professional project management. See the complete list of participation requirements at Xbox.com.
“At Xbox, we’re on a mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to the world’s 3 billion gamers and we recognize that Africa is home to the largest population of youth in the world, many who love to play. In 2019 I attended the opening of our Africa Development Centre and met with tech leaders, educators, and developers from across the region to understand their vision for the future of game creation. Through the inaugural Xbox Game Studios Camp Africa, in collaboration with Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office, we have an opportunity to continue to deepen our relationships with talented developers in region and help African games studios realize their vision and role in the global gaming industry,” said Phil Spencer, CEO, Gaming at Microsoft.
The Xbox Game Studios Game Camp program is an initiative that unifies various Xbox initiatives under one umbrella where talent is celebrated and game developers are empowered to pursue their dreams.
“At Microsoft, we are excited to enable African game developers and creators to build faster through access to tools and resources, and to help their games be discovered by players in Africa and around the world. We want to grow strong roots in this significant market for gaming and game development. The ATO and Xbox personnel will also combine efforts to identify game studios to invest in through our Startups acceleration program and venture capital investment partners. I’m looking forward to seeing what innovative concepts this Game Camp produces,” says Wael Elkabbany, Strategic Initiatives Lead for Microsoft CEMA.
The Microsoft Africa Development Centre (ADC) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Department of Computing have reviewed the university’s Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Bachelor of Computer Technology curriculum to make them more relevant to industry demands.
The new curriculum will impact the delivery of 128 units within the university’s Computer science and Computer technology courses. The curriculum is expected to start with the September 2023 students intake.
The updated curriculum will assist in preparing students for the demands of a rapidly changing technology industry by emphasizing practical skill development and simulating real-world experience within the classroom. In addition to a refreshed approach to traditional technological concepts, the reviewed curriculum will introduce new and innovative concepts, including Applied Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, Quantum Computing, and User Experience Design, as well as industry-standard tools at the education level to improve student’s familiarity with them as they enter the workplace.
Catherine Muraga, the Managing Director at Microsoft ADC said that they are delighted to have partnered with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in the curriculum review process and have their experts contribute specialized knowledge that will allow for tech industry-ready students and use of improved standards of teaching. Globally employable Kenyans boost Kenya’s attractiveness as a destination for technology companies looking to invest here. The startup ecosystem, local businesses, and entrepreneurs working on transforming technology will also benefit.
The curriculum review process is part of the ADC’s larger goal of catalyzing digital transformation by providing opportunities for skill and practical knowledge acquisition to equip Kenyans to be competitive in the global digital landscape.
“The review process has been extensive, with invaluable insights and recommendations from experienced industry experts that will add significant value to classroom instruction. We look forward to providing our students with best-in-class education that integrates practical skills building and theoretical understanding as they prepare for success in the technology industry,” said Dr Lawrence Nderu, Chairman, Department of Computing at JKUAT.
Similar curriculum review initiatives will be implemented at other institutions of higher learning as part of efforts to bridge the ever-present gap between industry and academia, particularly in the technology sector.
“We believe that by partnering with educational institutions, from primary school to the university level, we can help create a future workforce equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a digital age. We look forward to working with other institutions of higher learning to develop curricula that will improve the whole technology talent pipeline and grow the pool of tech talent in the country to benefit the whole ecosystem,” added Ms Muraga.
Co-Founder and CTO of Ampersand, Alp Tilev, says the transition to e-mobility in Africa must be expedited. He shares more on why there is an opportunity to drive the adoption of electrically powered motorcycles that produce less pollution in Africa. Talking about the financial and environmental advantages of electric motorcycles for drivers and the environment.
Historically, Asia has been the birthplace of motorcycles. China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam are the world’s four largest motorcycle markets. The continent is home to roughly 58% of all motorcycles in the world.
Africa is quickly catching up. According to a report by AMEND and the FIA Foundation, motorcycle usage in Africa has increased from less than 5 million in 2010 to an estimated 27 million in 2022. Because of Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, 80% of the continent’s motorcycles are used for commercial purposes such as taxis or delivery services.
Although Africa’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible at under four percent, these petrol-powered two-wheelers contribute a significant amount of carbon emissions. As Africa joins the rest of the world in the drive to reduce pollution, there is an opportunity to drive the adoption of electrically powered motorcycles that produce less pollution.
Electric motorcycles are hardly a new concept, but they are relatively new to Africa where they are starting to gain momentum by firmly making their way into the cultural and economic zeitgeist while inching the continent’s travelers towards a lower carbon future.
Adoption of electric motorcycles in Africa has its challenges, the issue of charging batteries being one. Given that a significant proportion of motorcycles on African roads are used for commercial purposes, riders rarely have time to wait for their batteries to charge.
However, there are innovative solutions that can be deployed to address the challenge, and technology is rapidly advancing, providing opportunities for innovators to create long-term solutions to the continent’s most pressing challenges.
On the back of this, we created Ampersand, an electric motorcycle and transportation energy solutions provider that allows riders to stay on the road while their batteries charge. To make this possible, we built a network of charging stations where riders can swap out depleted batteries for fully charged ones in only 2 minutes, saving them over $500 per year by reducing downtime.
Furthermore, each battery has a range of 60-90 km and needs to be replaced less frequently than drivers typically refuel with petrol. This solution not only saves drivers money but also ensures that they have a constant source of power, making electric motorcycles a more viable transportation option.
As the business grew from the initial 20 drivers to the current 800+ vehicles in Kigali and Nairobi, one of the challenges we encountered was keeping track of the batteries and their condition. With hundreds of drivers swapping out batteries every day, being able to track them and ensure they are in good condition is critical to our ability to support more drivers. Consequently, we built AmperOps, an adaptive cloud solution built on Microsoft’s Azure platform that allows the collection of over 15,000 data points and the execution of multiple transactions per second. The system also enables seamless management of battery packs through customizable parameters such as state of health analysis and geofenced alarms for increased security.
Furthermore, the system includes smart maintenance systems that automatically notify the team of required battery or vehicle repairs before they occur. With this level of customization and real-time response, we can gain a thorough understanding of the performance of each swap station, driver, and battery.
In the long run, the advantages of electric motorcycles extend beyond financial savings for drivers and environmental advantages. As Africa continues to industrialize, so will the capacity for designing, building, and assembling motorcycle components. This demonstrates an opportunity for green job growth throughout the value chain, from design to delivery and maintenance. Given that Ampersand users travel over 1.9 million kilometers per month, there is a clear opportunity for electric motorcycles to impact Africa’s transportation industry and for electric motorcycles to become the sustainable lifeblood of public transport systems In fact, we have set an ambitious goal of electrifying all motorcycles in East Africa by 2030, and earlier in Rwanda by 2027.
Without a doubt, electric motorcycles have the potential to be a viable mode of transportation for millions of Africans. Technology will drive change by enabling innovators to create solutions to niche challenges in the adoption of e-mobility. With the right investment, Africa’s transportation industry could be transformed while also creating job opportunities, reducing pollution, and saving drivers money.