Wednesday, June 13, 2007

UNIDO, Microsoft join forces on PC penetration

Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Information Technology (IT) giant, Microsoft Corporation, have joined forces to boost Personal Computer (PC) penetration on the continent.

This follows the two firms endorsement of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Ouagadougou, during the first African Sub-Regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Best Practices forum, reports Wanjohi Kabukuru.

This, industry sources said was in reaffirmation of their commitment to help bridge the digital divide in African.

The MOU signed by UNIDO’s secretary general Dr Kande Yumkellah and Chairman of Microsoft in Africa, Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra, the continent is set to gain from refurbished computers from the corporations in the West to small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) in Africa.

“SMEs are the cornerstone of any economy. By providing computers, software and training to entrepreneurs we aim to foster jobs and opportunities in SMEs in rural Africa. We are committed to developing a model for refurbishment that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally,” Yumkella said.

The initial pilot project, he added would kick-off in Uganda before the end of this year, from where it is expected to extend to other parts of the continent.

This, he said, is in tandem with UNIDO mandate, which is to help countries achieves sustainable industrial development.

“The issue is not about new or refurbished computers, but that our small scale entrepreneurs will be able to take advantage of the knowledge economies now and not tomorrow. We cannot let our people take the same long and slow route to development when it is obvious they can leapfrog to that era now.” Kandeh informed.

“Refurbished computers are like generic drugs and HIV/AIDS anti retroviral drugs (ARVs) in the end both of them work on the same principle. They are affordable and easily accessible. It does not mean when you have refurbished computers you cannot access the Internet,” he said.

UNIDO scribe also said that this is what the collaboration with Microsoft is seeking to demystify.

“We want our SMEs to grow and help our economies to develop and produce more. That way, we can help reduce poverty in the continent,” Yumkellah, who was a former Trade minister in Sierra Leone, said.

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