Microsoft Kenya Open Door kicks off today evening by showcasing the company's new technology to CIOs at the Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi. The event highlights the changes in IT that brings business value and ways of maintaining technology professionals in the industry through running outreach programmes such as the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

The event targets both CIOs and developers, and it is focused towards boosting a robust enterprise service to the market at the same time expose these professionals to new technology platforms.

Targeting the student community as well as IT professionals, the Microsoft Virtual Academy is geared towards encouraging and promoting local innovation and improving employability. Students have access to a variety of free online training content and are able to learn at their own pace, enabling them to build the necessary Information Technology skills critical to most careers. Speaking during a press conference to announce this year's Microsoft Open Door activities, Vincent Mugambi, Developer and Platform Manager, Microsoft East and Southern Africa said "Microsoft has stepped up its partnership with local universities to empower the students with the best technology tools to enhance their learning experience."

"We are striving to develop a culture conducive to innovation. As we recognize that the potential to innovate must be nurtured early-on, Microsoft will continue to provide appropriate and superior learning tools to encourage innovation," said Mugambi.

The Microsoft Virtual Academy complements the recently launched Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) programme, an educational and promotional program for undergraduate and postgraduate students majoring in technology related disciplines such as computer science, computer information systems, and information technology. It aims to enhance students' employability and increase students' awareness of Microsoft technologies. Student Partners are offered training especially in product-specific skills not typically taught in academia.

"It is a thrilling experience to study Microsoft technologies and advance my career," said George Mbuthia, a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. "By earning points for downloading and studying materials and passing the self-assessment tests the program also keeps me motivated and encouraged, as I can constantly see my progress."

Following completion of the program, Student Partners are expected to share their knowledge among the academic community through arranging courses, giving presentations and initiating projects. The tenure for the Microsoft Student Program is one academic year and can be renewed on acceptable performance.

"Microsoft has a strategy of empowering developers through such outreach programmes", says Dele Akinsade, Developer and Platform Evangelist, Microsoft West East and Central Africa. "What the company is doing is to lure developers into the Windows platform", he added. At the end of the year, Microsoft will be launching a Windows 7 phone boot camp in Kenya to encourage local developers to shifts apps from other platforms to the Windows platform.

CIOs and developers will interact and learn from their peers at the 2nd annual Open Door event, then Microsoft will have the developers track tomorrow 18th Oct 2011 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Upperhill, Nairobi.