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Kenya 'doing what it must' to keep ICT skills flowing

Kenya 'doing what it must' to keep ICT skills flowing

Kenya is certainly 'at the top' and there is a lot being done to ensure the availability of sought-after technical skills to the market to help the country retain its technology stronghold in East Africa.

This is the view of Charles Katua, researcher at the Department of Computing and Informatics at the University of Nairobi, and Graduate Assistant Selina Ochukut.

Katua and Ochukut are directly involved in ensuring that interested students have access to- and can leverage the Huawei Authorised Network Academy (HAINA) IT laboratory, the second of its kind in the country after the Strathmore University Lab launched in 2013.

The resource is being used for extensive training, business development and incubation, as well as to facilitate research projects in association with business partners and the private sector, and organise conferences – including the Nairobi Innovation Week and Cloud Computing Conference, held in association with Microsoft.

The Lab is open to all students and works with up to 1O groups at a time when it comes to business startup incubation and development.

At the heart of this skills transfer programme and resource utilisation is the desire to ensure that students find placement in the job market, particularly the ICT sector.

While the University is unable to quantify the number of students that actually secure employment, Ochukut says they have a very high adoption rate because of the training.

"We do have people coming to ask for specific skills and the for internships, they do come and search for people... in Kenya the technology field is not flooded, so most students are placed immediately after they have finished their studies," says Ochukut.

Business buy-in

The research facility is used to build on technology the University feels is a priority and will be quickly adopted in the ICT ecosystem. This covers popular subjects such as Internet Protocol, wireless, transport network and cloud computing.

The institution works directly with several business partners, including Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Vodacom and Huawei, on various initiatives to test how receptive the market is.

As Katua explains, many of these businesses have established presence in Kenya which gives the country competitive advantage in terms of ICT growth and development.

Huawei views the HAINA Labs as a non-profit programme designed to build the skills, particularly practical skills for students undertaking computer science and related studies.

Dean Yu, Huawei Technologies Kenya CEO, said, "With the advancement of economic globalisation and the intense competition for high quality professionals, governments have increased investments in (the) education sector. The in-depth cooperation between sector industries such as Huawei and universities is an innovative model of talent development, helping cultivate more ICT professionals and form an ICT talent pool."

For technology professionals like Katua and Ochukut, there are bound to be socio-political and economic changes ahead, but these, they believe, will not impact on their efforts to ensure the market has access to a growing tech skills base.

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