CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

16 November 2012

Kenya: Windows 8 Launch in Kenya, Flexible Work Styles

The new age of productivity is challenged by the number of smart devices and platform, this is what business partners, application developers, and technology enthusiasts gathered at the Sankara Hotel, in Nairobi to experience with the official launch of Microsoft Windows 8 in the Kenyan market.

However the launch wasn't a big deal especially since the product was already rolled out in Johannesburg for the African market.

Unlike the Johannesburg launch, the uniqueness and importance of the Kenyan launch was about what local developers and the enterprise sectors are able to do on this platform. Windows 8 provided a fluid platform between devices that enabled Kenyan developers to breed applications which facilitate deep IT transformation in computing, storage and networked environments.

Kevin Connolly, Windows Business Group Manager at Microsoft in West, East and Central Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands is confident about the new OS. He says since Microsoft launched Windows 7, 3 years ago, 690 million copies have been sold, and 94% customer satisfaction achieved.

Dan Mugo, the Managing Director of Software Universe, one of the local companies that has already adopted the new operating system and started creating apps on it. He show cased a mobile banking application for Kenya Co-operative Bank built on the Windows 8 operating system.

"We are excited that Co-operative Bank is the first bank in Kenya to launch a banking application on Windows 8. Our application, allows customers to access their account from anywhere in the world via the internet, make direct transfer from a Co-operative Bank account to either M-pesa and Airtel Money, purchase airtime, direct airtime top-up from Co-operative Bank account to any mobile phone on all the networks, inquire credit card balances, check on loan repayment facility, transfer funds to any bank account as well as an option to invite a friend to try the app for themselves.

This is an app designed to meet the banking needs of any Co-operative bank customer anywhere, anytime", said Mugo.

Virtual City, also a local company, already has a set of working Windows 8 app namely Distributr™. The OS is exciting for developers because it offers a friendly environment to develop applications as well as upload and distribute them for downloading from the Windows Store anywhere in the world.

Distributrâ„¢ is geared towards harmonizing distribution chain along the supply chain, by seamlessly providing an integrated software solution on a reliable communication platform that will provide a consolidated overview of the transactions undertaken as a whole by fast moving consumer's goods companies across Africa.

With Distributrâ„¢, sales agents are provided with a hand-held mobile device already installed with the Distributr™software. The agent is able to transact and issue receipts in the field and transactions are updated to the distributor system in the office HQ through synchronization.

Two Windows 8 apps are using Open Data and Crowd sourcing platforms to tell their stories. The Kenya County Score Card is an app that provides Kenya-centric data to tell stories in a new way. It uses data from the Kenya Open Data Initiative and then displays easily interpretable data visualization tools. The Ushahidi app on the other hand, uses the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform to gather information from populations in different locations for crisis mapping.

The new OS which works well with the "cloud" signifies an "on demand service" among other Microsoft Office products like the new office, which brings in a federation between Lynch and Skype for business people to collaborate.

"CIOs should align their IT service platforms with a cloud oriented OS" says Connolly "They should create scalability standpoints". Windows 8 is currently available in three versions; Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise which offers business customers new possibilities in mobile productivity with features like 'Windows To Go', DirectAccess, and BranchCache, as well as enhanced end-to-end security with features including BitLocker and AppLocker.

Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication reiterated the government's commitment to providing a necessary framework to local innovators to produce content relevant to the local market as well as to build applications that will position Kenya as Africa's Silicon Valley.

"The Kenyan government is currently working on last mile, this means at one point, you might be stuck anywhere in Kenya without a road but connected 100 mbps internet speed", said Dr. Ndemo. He added that the government has also been able to effect the zero-rating of imported software to spur innovation and growth in the country."

Louis Otieno, the Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Africa Initiatives at Microsoft pointed, 2012 as the biggest year for Windows production line which took advantage of the cloud. "The cloud removes the barriers of developers to move ideas to market; it is no longer a CAPEX discussion". Aligning the launch to Vision 2030, Louis says not many countries in the world have a corporate vision, of which a little piece of it relates to technology.

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