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RIM opens local BlackBerry Apps Lab

The BlackBerry Apps lab is located at the University of Pretoria's Information Technology department, and will be open to students and faculty, as well as local entrepreneurs and developers.

Research In Motion (RIM) has formally partnered with the University of Pretoria to open a BlackBerry Apps Lab, with the intention of supporting mobile app development in SA. The new initiative also forms part of the Department of Communications' e-Skills Institute.

The BlackBerry Apps Lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, in the form of computers, Internet access and a BlackBerry Enterprise server. The goal of the initiative is to provide University of Pretoria students and faculty, start-ups, entrepreneurs and others with access to the necessary knowledge and resources to develop applications and expand their business opportunities.

Speaking at the launch event in Pretoria yesterday, RIM Africa MD Bob Bose said: “African economies are expected to rise by an average of 6% in the coming year. This incredible growth, we think, is facilitated by the unprecedented adoption of mobile technology, which is driven largely by the demands of the African youth and business communities.

“With the adoption of mobile technology there are some incredible opportunities for SA and across the entire continent. However, one of the key challenges is access to education and skills that will contribute to the growth of the local economies,” said Bose.

A BlackBerry Apps Lab trainer does a demonstration for Director General of the DOC, Rosey Sekese, and MD of Africa for RIM, Bob Bose.

“We know SA is an innovation hub, full of entrepreneurs, young students, start-ups and established businesses. So, as a market leader, our goal at RIM is to help maximise the opportunities that these entrepreneurs and students have.”

According to Bose, RIM's goal is to provide the necessary resources to see the development of new applications and content that will create new markets, new sources of revenue and that will appeal to the local market.

Developers in the lab will be encouraged to create apps that positively impact the South African economy by providing mobile data solutions for key services such as health, education and commerce.

“We are eager to support global development, and to create great local content here in SA. We also want to help local developers reach a global audience through BlackBerry App World. So it is against this backdrop that we are opening the BlackBerry Apps Lab,” said Bose.

Accelerate development

Senior lecturer at the Department of Informatics at the University of Pretoria, and interim project manager of the Gauteng e-skills hub, Dr Hossana Twinomurinzi, said: “The new knowledge economy demands people who are e-skilled – that is people who have the ability to use and develop ICTs, enabling them to actively participate and innovate in a world where ICT is a requirement for advancement.”

Also speaking at the event, vice-principal of research and postgraduate studies at the University of Pretoria, Professor Stephanie Burton, said: “Digital technologies have already changed the way our new generations of learners think and learn. I know our students and staff will make full use of this opportunity to apply their adaptable minds to the development of new applications.

“One of our key objectives at the University of Pretoria is to empower our students to develop industry-relevant skills that will accelerate mobile application development in SA and help create new economic opportunities and jobs in the mobile space. Our partnership with RIM, and the collaboration with the DOC's e-Skills Institute, will allow us to deliver on this promise.”

The apps lab also forms part of RIM's developer programme across Africa in key innovation hubs such as Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. The company has also been working with 39 African universities, schools and colleges through its BlackBerry Academic Programme.

The programme provides institutions with materials and content to teach mobile application development, and covers a network of 640 institutions across 113 countries. The University of Pretoria is the latest addition to this programme.

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