Microsoft SA last night officially opened the first Microsoft Technology Centre (MTC) in Africa – a high-tech multi-million rand facility that it says will help local companies of all sizes become more globally competitive by helping develop “next-generation solutions” for their most pressing business problems.
Dubbed a “technology think-tank on digital steroids”, the MTC houses millions of rands worth of hardware and devices from a range of local partners. Here, a team of top architects and developers will help partners and customers explore new ways to grow their businesses, improve processes and optimise the technology they already own.
Mteto Nyati, MD of Microsoft SA, says the MTC is “a massive investment” in South Africa’s ambition to become a regional technology hub. The centre will also play a major role in bringing to life the company’s 4Afrika initiative, which was launched earlier this year and aims to drive innovation opportunities, skills development and broadband access on the continent.
“This centre is all about collaboration and building an entire ecosystem of innovation. We want to dramatically speed up the pace of innovation, and help our customers and partners slash the time it takes to get solutions and applications to market,” says Nyati.
Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom says it is important that South Africans and Africans develop home-grown technology solutions and foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly among the youth.
“There has never been a better time for businesses, government and the youth to develop solutions that can address a range of challenges. Technology hubs like these can only enhance our capacity to provide innovative solutions to the most pressing social and business challenges facing our country and continent,” says Hanekom.
The MTC includes an array of purpose-built environments to ensure world-class learning and development experiences. This includes a data centre, fully-equipped developer suite, three envisioning centres and a retail store, which is being run in partnership with Incredible Connection. The centre will also be available to app developers, start-ups and students wanting to test their solutions before taking them to market.
“We would like to create an environment where local businesses are able to create more jobs, whether here in South Africa or anywhere else in Africa,” says Nyati.
MTC manager Markus Hain says the centre offers a boot-camp curriculum of in-depth software and hardware customisation through a three-stage process of strategy briefings, architectural design, and proof of concept, at no cost.
“It’s about trying to understand what the key business challenges are,” says Hain. “We don’t even have to talk about Microsoft technology. We want businesspeople to sit down with IT people and see if their ideas are possible to execute.”
With many executives seeking quick answers, the MTC architects will spend time understanding the problem and quickly put together a proposed solution. These solutions will also extend strongly to ways of using existing infrastructure, says Hain.
“Customers want to know how to wrap a whole new world around older technology. They want to engage with information in new ways.”