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Firstly my heartfelt condolences for the untimely loss of columnist Raphael Tenthani, a leading investigative journalist and a strong voice for the voiceless in Malawi. My thoughts are with his family and close friends at this time. Malawi has lost a true son.

Back to the latest IT news in the region. A reminder once again – Windows Server 2003 will no longer be supported by Microsoft from 14th July 2015. Upgrading is essential for corporates using this product. Note that the latest version of Windows Server (and Microsoft Exchange) only works on 64bit devices, although you are still able to deploy an earlier 32bit version of both, with the same volume licence. However, if still using a 32bit server, you seriously need to consider upgrading your hardware now.

Don’t forget to also query and clarify compatibility issues with your line of business application providers. As I previously mentioned in early April, Internet.org was made available in Malawi this week. This purports to provide free data services to mobile phones for a number of services – top of the list being Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has made good on his promise to make internet services available to those who currently cannot afford this – and has described online connectivity as a human right. I tend to agree.

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The launch now brings Internet.org to more than one billion people worldwide. Remember though – this does not provide free unlimited access to the internet. Check with your mobile operator. However, it will reduce the financial burden of our extremely high data services, as well as, of course, increasing the number of Facebook users. Could this be classified as ethical business practice?

Now to Botswana which has remained a rare and long term success story in political and economic stability in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently Botswana is aggressively positioning itself to dominate technology benefits in the region. The government is constructing a science and technology park, to be completed in 2016 – aimed at attracting the right international partners. Combining this with tax incentives to international companies in the industry and fast tracked procedures on work and residence permits ensures the import of international skills into the country.

This is combined with a robust internal initiatives around data protection legislation and start up support and funding to local businesses. My oft lamented comment in this column – is Malawi learning from this? Alas, no. My perspective is that we are going steadily backwards – we are still struggling with prohibitive costs and timescales on work permits and geographically restrictive business regulations – let alone planning for the digital future. Some further bad news from South Africa.

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Gauteng Education Department, who introduced the “one tablet one learner” initiative to boost education in the region, and empower students, has announced the immediate withdrawal of 88,000 of these tablets. This is because criminals have targeted these schools and stolen a large number of these, amongst other school assets. They are expecting schools to enhance security and will also aim to install additional security features on the tablets before release. Sad news indeed for Gauteng students.

And finally, some better news from Kenya, where a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between government and Microsoft which aims to distribute 1.2 million affordable devices to local primary and secondary schools by 2016. Microsoft has also committed to train 30,000 teachers in ICT skills through their Partners in Learning network over the next five years, and train over 500 government officials on ICT policy and practice.

“Investing in Africa’s skills for both entrepreneurship and employability is key in helping Africans find and create jobs to promote inclusive economic growth. Governments that embrace solid ICT policies will be at the forefront of economic development and create favourable investment climates”. These comments from Ali Faramawy, Corporate Vice president at Microsoft Middle East and Africa reflects Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to intellectual investment in Africa.

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