'Africa should create a channel for business app developers'

Multinational chip maker, Intel has been in the forefront to engage the African continent by providing tools and services that will spur mobility.

The company continues to partner with local developers to give them world class tools to build services and products to solve today's problems.

Danie Steyn, East Africa's general manager for Intel Corporation has been with the company for 15 years now, in various capacities. He was the Intel World Ahead programme director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa and also served as Intel's regional business manager for sub-Saharan Africa.

Steyn speaks to ITWeb Africa on what the company has achieved in its years on the continent. He also details what to expect with the ever changing technology.

VINCENT MATINDE: With the evolution of mobile phones in Africa, what do we expect in terms of performance, processors and price points in the near future?

DANIE STEYN: Consumers are demanding more performance from our devices than ever before. The new devices coming to the market will cater to a greater demand for improved imaging and photography capabilities, longer battery life without trading on performance, integrated experiences, and a greater level of responsiveness. What's more, consumers want to connect to the cloud and take advantage of the services we'd traditionally use in the office environment.

We expect to see more affordable entry-point smartphones coming to market and driving productivity performance, while creating plenty of opportunities for the cloud and Big Data.

We expect to see lines further blur between tablets and phones (e.g. phablets), and we'll see features typically found in high end devices find their way down to entry level devices. What used to be feature phones will move up, inheriting entry level smartphone capabilities. We will see an increasing number of mobile devices interacting with one another in the ecosystem.

From applications enabling smartphones to control the TV through to enhanced insight into healthcare - we'll continue to get more and more out of our devices.

VINCENT MATINDE: How successful was the YOLO phone in Kenya? What insights did the company get during its sale in Kenya?

DANIE STEYN: Safaricom's YOLO phone debut in Kenya was very successful. This year, together with our partners, Intel is significantly increasing the urgency to introduce a range of innovative and differentiated devices that will shape the future of the mobile segment in Africa.

We have continued to see a growing demand for quality, affordable smart devices and as a result are working closely with local OEMs to bring a variety of devices that serve this market segment.

We recently collaborated with Mitsumi Distribution, a local distributor to bring in affordable '2-in-1s' with 3G functionality. The new range of devices is branded ISurf and is designed for a broad range of clients including First time buyers, SMEs, teachers, students etc.

VINCENT MATINDE: Talk to us about technology competencies in Africa and what needs to be done to have top techies in Africa?

DANIE STEYN: There is need to continue providing access to the much needed technical and business training, support developers to scale their apps beyond one market, start- up capital and resources to finance the tech businesses and generate demand and adoption of line of business apps created by local developers.

One way for companies in Africa to recognise and support tech talent in the continent would be to create a channel where they continuously engage local developers to develop line of business apps that are relevant for their businesses.

By doing this, they would be nurturing local talent by helping top developers stay in business and remain relevant in the continent. As a company we are helping developers market their apps by attaching them to device being sold.

VINCENT MATINDE: Do you have ideas on how to market apps in Africa and possibilities of monetising local applications?

DANIE STEYN: As a company we support developers to market their apps in 2 ways:

Firstly, through our online marketing platform that aims to support top developers to drive downloads of their apps globally and create discoverability of these apps in the stores. For example, it would be an uphill task for a Kenyan developer to market their app outside the continent.

Secondly through our local retail programmes, we showcase some of the local apps optimised for Intel based devices in leading retail outlets in Kenya.

VINCENT MATINDE: Any other projects Intel has been in to support African startups?

DANIE STEYN: We have programmes such as Ideation camps. The objective of these camps is to simulate the journey of new entrepreneurs from identifying problems to how they pitch a business out of their budding ideas.

The programme is centred on a 6-step process, where the participants start out by understanding user needs and different challenges experienced in a particular country, for instance from security issues, healthcare, education among other different challenges.

Once they have an understanding of these problems, the participants look at different technology trends that can help solve these problems. They then come up with several ideas, out of which, they select one and build a business model around it. Participants are taught how to pitch, present ideas as well as visual communication skills which are put to the test when they finally showcase their business models designed to solve specific problems in a sustainable way.

Through our Software Services group, we support tech start-ups to get training and marketing support for their applications.

VINCENT MATINDE: What are Intel's thoughts on how to implement e-learning in Kenya/Africa?

DANIE STEYN: Intel has developed a holistic model for successful and sustainable, education transformation. It provides a systematic framework that considers all aspects of the education system encompassing, amongst others, a visionary leadership team to champion and implement change, policies reforms at all levels that encourage 21st century learning and professional development - empower teachers to modify their teaching practices and use ICT to significantly improve learning outcomes.

Successful educational technology initiatives require ongoing, long-term efforts aimed at new goals, new approaches, and new ways of thinking about challenges and opportunities across the school system.

This means shifting the learning paradigm from teacher-centric to student-centric teaching and learning. Today, most classrooms are based on teacher-centric models. Students depend on the instructor to impart knowledge, often in a lecture-based format.

In the transformed environment, teachers are still critically important, but they act as facilitators who guide students to use technology to analyse, learn, communicate, and explore. Students then develop skills such as evaluation and problem solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity, and the ability to work collaboratively and communicate effectively.

VINCENT MATINDE: Any announcements from the company for Africa in 2015?

DANIE STEYN: Recently Intel announced the availability of its 5th generation Intel Core vPro processor family that provides cutting-edge features to enable a new and rapidly shifting workplace.

The company will also continue investing in Intel She Will Connect programme, which aims to reduce the internet gender gap in sub-Saharan Africa where the gap is the greatest, through an innovative combination of digital literacy training, an online peer network, and gender-relevant content.