The first Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) in Botswana, expected to accelerate technology advances and stimulate Botswana’s software economy, was launched on Thursday at the Technology Centre.
Officiating at the launch, Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe said the facility will play a pivotal role in developing national software by enabling collaboration with Microsoft Corporation.
Merafhe said that the government embarked on implementing the national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy framework in 2004.
He further said that complementing the E-Government strategy, the Botswana Innovation Hub seeks to build and operate a Science and Technology Park that will transform Botswana into a more knowledge-based economy.
“Emphasis will also be placed on attracting foreign companies to locate in the hub and Botswana should not be an exception,” said Merafhe.
He further said empowering Batswana with specialized information technology skills and nurturing a strong local software industry is critical to improving the country’s competitiveness and underpinning productivity gains in the private and public sectors.
“Rapid economic growth in various countries has been demonstrated to be strongly tied to intensive ICT skills development and adoption,” he said.
He noted that the centre is the second in Southern Africa and part of a network of 100 programmes developed in 42 countries under the Microsoft Local software economy initiative.
“The center will provide expert guidance to both students and entrepreneurs through partnering with education facilities,” said Merafhe.
Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) chief executive, Alan Boshwaen, revealed that the facility is a partnership agreement between Microsoft and government of Botswana through the BIH.
He said the hub will provide assistance and resources to small and medium-sized enterprises to create innovative products and services as well as bring those products to the market and improve their business competitiveness. ┬á┬á┬á
“This is a major milestone for our country, particularly for young people who now have world class facilities to hone their ICT skills,” said Boshwaen.
He said the innovation centre will act as an incubator for innovation, technology training and industry skill transfer, contributing to economic growth and prosperity in Botswana.
“The facility will be able to acquire best practice from the international network to grow the number of Batswana who play a direct role in developing unique software for both local and export markets in the region and beyond,” he said.
For his part, Microsoft West, East and Central Africa General Manager, Hennie Loubser, echoed other speakers, stating that the new MIC will provide young entrepreneurs, students, developers and researchers in the local community access to expert information and high technology for testing and developing the latest technologies built on the Microsoft platform.
He said it is a grand opportunity for Botswana to be partnering with an innovation global leader, Microsoft, in realizing the dreams as an innovation economy.
“Our American multinational computer technology corporation is here to make Botswana one of the leaders in the information and communication technology sector,” said Louber.