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John Nielsen

A team of Microsoft staff members is installing ICTs and carrying out fundraising for communities in Malawi as part of Microsoft’s employee volunteer programme.

The initiative sees 15 skilled staff members from various regions working together to make a difference.

John Nielsen General Manager, EMEA, Customer Service & Support at Microsoft, spoke to Biztechafrica en route to Malawi through South Africa last week.

He says the school initiative, launched at the St Andrews Secondary School and nearby schools in the Blantyre area last year, will now be extended to include seven schools. Twenty-three teachers from 13 schools will also be trained to set up and maintain their schools’ networks. The team will host five DigiGirlz training courses, and stage a Masterclass for high school students interested in pursuing a career in ICT.

In addition, the team raises funds for other community initiatives. Last year, 5000 mosquito nets were distributed as part of the programme. This year, the aim is to install 10 boreholes in TA Mphuka, Southern Malawi, to take clean drinking water to around 2,500 people.

Nielsen is enthusiastic about the life-changing benefits of the programme – not just for the communities where it is rolled out, but also for the Microsoft volunteers. “For example, at least year’s Digigirlz workshops, we saw young girls who had hardly been exposed to ICTs building their own websites and games within a very short time. It is wonderful to see their faces light up as they discover ICTs.”

And for the volunteers, the programme is infinitely rewarding, he says. “You get a different perspective on life,” says Nielsen. The programme is so popular that while around 50 staff members volunteered to be in the first team to Malawi last year; this year saw over 140 applying to take part. The volunteers from year one were disappointed that they could not come back for a second year, having thoroughly enjoyed their work in Malawi.

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