NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 28 – Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya now have access to professional websites, email domains, document sharing and more using a platform that was launched by Microsoft on Thursday.
Dubbed “Microsoft Office 365” the next generation cloud-based service allows users to work from virtually anywhere on nearly any device and services are delivered from a global network of state-of-the-art secure data centres.
Microsoft East and Southern Africa General Manager Louis Otieno said Office365 targets Small and Medium Enterprises that have less or no legacy systems, which allows for easy migration to the cloud.
The new service is available for free for 30 days at www.Office365.com and midsize and large businesses, along with government organisations, can sign up for $4 (Sh336) per user each month for the basic version.
For $20 (Sh1,682) per user, per month, organisations can get Office Professional Plus, along with email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, web portals, extranets, videoconferencing, web conferencing, on premises licenses and 24/7 phone support.
“The capital required for businesses to acquire the hardware and to pay for the technical people who set up their websites and email accounts will no longer be necessary, so small businesses will benefit from that,” he said.
“We are addressing the ramp up costs that small business often have to deal with and we’re also dealing with the capital expenditure and operating expenses that small businesses usually pay upfront in order for them to move forward,” he added.
Office 365 brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online and they are working with partners to integrate it with their existing services such as web hosting, internet connections, finance solutions and mobile phone services.
Otieno said that this will create a one-stop-shop for small and midsized businesses seeking business services and he also revealed that the government can also make great use of the reliability, security features and IT controls featured in the cloud.
“Now the government can make the decision that the county commissioners they’ve appointed to the most remote locations will be able to function immediately because they will be able to share documents, send mail and function just like the commissioners next door in Kiambu County,” he explained.
“Traditionally, we would have to wait for the information to be up and running for everybody to be able to use it, but we now have an opportunity where they can start making use of the information immediately, so that people can start being moved into the government infrastructure as time goes,” he stated.
With Office 365, moving to the cloud does not require people to change the way they work because it’s based on the familiar Office program that most people are accustomed to and Otieno said this is an added benefit because people get new ways to work together, on virtually any device, using the same familiar applications.
Deputy Marketing Director at Kenya ICT Board Eunice Kariuki said one of their mandates is to roll out an ICT Master Plan that will create 500 entrepreneurial tech companies by 2020, but she acknowledged that they are facing the challenge of finding adequate funding for the start up companies.
Kariuki said that getting banks to invest in great innovative ideas is not an issue, but rather the problem arises when these start ups are forced to use that money to buy servers and hire experts to set them up so they can compete in the market.
“Now these entrepreneurs can just move forward and stop worrying about servers or upfront purchases for heavy software because they can just get Microsoft Office 365, start small by paying for what they need and grow without spending a lot of money upfront,” she said.
“At Kenya ICT Board, we are driving several projects in partnership with the E-Government that will see the entire government automated, and we’re focusing on the foundational systems such as the judiciary, health sector and other core government systems,” she confirmed.
Kariuki announced that the government will invest heavily in digitization so that they can create the foundational data banks, which will make it possible to use products such as Office 365.