The MTN Business App Academy was launched this year to expand the ecosystem that has evolved around the awards. Established to upskill aspiring talent, the academy is an online app-development programme providing tutoring and mentorship by experts.
“It’s for non-techies who want to create tech-based solutions for their ideas,” says Magagane. In other words, it trains people — who have ideas or expertise in a particular field and are looking for ways to translate their innovative ideas into digital solutions — to code. And it mentors them towards achieving their goals.
Aspiring developers participate in a six-week online coding programme, culminating in a 72-hour virtual hackathon, with the objective of developing an app that solves a common social challenge facing SA.
The top three apps are given the chance to grow into fully fledged solutions, with a go-to-market implementation strategy. In other words, making the circle bigger.
No stranger to ground-breaking apps, MTN in 2019 introduced ayoba, essentially a home-grown instant-messaging platform with similar functionality to WhatsApp. It’s been described as “WeChat for Africa” — created for Africa, in Africa.
Like WhatsApp, ayoba is free to use across all networks. What sets ayoba apart is that it allows users to also communicate with others on phones that only have basic features — and with those that don’t have the ayoba app.
While data is required to send messages and files, MTN provides 1GB of free data monthly — that enables anyone to stay in contact with friends and family, even when airtime has run out.
“Ayoba gives you a monthly data allocation so that you can access your basic data services,” Magagane says. “So, you can check the news, check on job-market vacancies, browse general websites between midnight and 5am, and ensure that people are able to keep communicating”.
Additionally, MTN zero-rated two ayoba Covid-19 channels for the sharing of pandemic news and updates. Plus, the network provided free usage of a USSD (data) line for Covid-19 reporting.
At the same time, MTN extended its zero-rated website access beyond universities, education portals and Wikipedia with the launch of MTN OpenTime, and provides a monthly quota for customers to access more than 1,000 public-benefit service sites that include health and employment sites.
“All these developments, whether or not they’re specific to the conditions created by Covid-19, are happening in the interests of expanding SA’s access to the digital world, Magagane says. “Whether we’re helping to create apps, or providing access to apps and other digital services, we’re just proud to see how the country is advancing in the adoption of digital services,” he says. “As a network provider, we create the engine that you’re going to plug into, and we see that as one of the spaces where MTN has great potential to bring the country together.”
* This article was paid for by MTN.