University students from across Kenya and some parts of Africa can now apply to take part in season 4 of the Microsoft Africa Development Center’s (ADC) Game of Learners (GOL) competition. 

The GOL initiative allows African university students, aspiring software engineers, and solution builders to hone their technical and coding skills while developing solutions to the continent's and the world's current challenges. 

In the 2023 competition, participants will work to develop potential technology solutions that can address unique health challenges, including how to improve healthcare service provision in their localities or other parts of the world. 

The program runs as a 5-week hackathon with teams captained by Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors crafting the innovations while receiving technical training from Microsoft’s professionals.

Senior Program Manager at ADC, and the founder of the Game of Learners Program Ruth Ferland noted there has been tremendous development in the learners through the four seasons.

“Since we launched Game of Learners four years ago, we have seen incredible development in the learner’ skills through each season as they create incredibly clever solutions to some of Africa’s pressing problems using Microsoft technology,” Ferland said.

“This year’s theme will allow the participants to plug into an area that has enormous potential to impact lives across the continent and indeed around the world.”

The students will benefit from the instruction of 32 coaches and over 20 advisors, who will guide them through the process of learning new technologies and building their solutions. 

The coaches, mentors, judges, speakers, and trainers will comprise volunteers from Microsoft and partners, who for season 4 will include PSI and AMREF Health Africa. 

The winning team will be eligible for awards, including collaboration with GOL Season 4 partners to advance their solution and entry into the Microsoft Imagine Cup, where they will present their innovation on a global stage at the end of the season.

Population Services International’s (PSI) Global Director of Digital Health Martin Dale said the partnership with Microsoft is part of a larger initiative to increase the number of talented people working in Africa’s Digital Health sector.

He also noted there was much talent in universities and GOL offers a great opportunity for leaners to create solutions.

“This partnership with Microsoft is part of a larger initiative to increase the talent pool of individuals working in Digital Health across Africa,” said Martin Dale, 

“There is so much talent graduating from our universities and Game of Learners is a great opportunity for students to dig in and create solutions that make health care more accessible to all.”

AMREF Health Africa Group ICT Director Samuel Weru challenged students to apply for the program and be part of the drive towards creating home-grown solutions for Africa’s challenges. 

“As a continent that has historically had serious healthcare challenges, we need the kind of ideas that can only come from the youth to revitalise healthcare service provision. There are myriad opportunities ranging from health informatics and telemedicine to big data analysis and system security for the learners to explore. We are eager to work with the teams to create solutions that have the potential to change Africa and the world,” said Weru. 

Season 4 will have 16 teams, each made up of 4 learners, 2 men and 2 women, drawn from all over the continent. 

The virtual competition is open to students of accredited universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa, who will be vetted as per the requirements after submitting an online application. 

“The program is designed to provide a fun, hands-on learning experience while creating a virtual environment that transcends borders to allow young minds to collaborate and drive the advancement of Africa into a global innovation hub. Having gender-balanced teams further ties into our mission of promoting diversity and inclusion within the tech industry,” explained Ferland. 

Designed like a sports league, each 5-week season of Game of Learners is followed by a month-long season of GOL Clinic and GOL exhibitions to accord individuals seeking deeper hands-on technical experience and specialised training from Microsoft and GOL partners.