In an effort to meet the growing demand for highly skilled IT professionals, three of Kenya's leading universities are teaming with IBM to create an advanced educational and training environment. These partnerships will help students develop critical Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) skills in areas such as analytics, cyber security, big data, social business and cloud.
As part of the collaboration, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Riara University and Strathmore University will have access to the latest enterprise software and systems. Faculty will have no-charge access to an extensive library of IT curricula for computer science, business and other degree programs and be able to participate in ongoing training opportunities. Students will also have access to IBM experts and real-world case studies from a range of industries.
CIO East Africa's Peter Nalika, spoke to Dr. Joseph Sevilla , Strathmore University's @iLabAfrica Director about this collaboration.
Why are you engaging IBM on this curriculum venture and what does this relationship entail?
IBM leads in technology by offering various services to industries and providing state of the art technology for business enterprises. At the university, precisely we want to train our students in relevant technologies for the market place; we want to provide an education that is not just theoretical but also practical, so that when students are done with the university, they are able to apply the relevant skills on the job environment.
Will these training programs involve only IBM's technology line?
Well as a university we train everything, both technical and software skills, the partnership with IBM will allow us to utilize some of the IBM's technologies, which will be thought to our students and also enrich our lecturers with the materials developed by IBM. In general this training will help students develop analytical skills, and how to use technology in the enterprise business environment.
Where will this program run, is it here at Strathmore or at the IBM premises?
No, we won't send students to the company's premises for the program; it will be done at the university however IBM is building up a research center so in both cases we will collaborate will collaborate. The main thing is to have our staff trained and they can teach by using various tools and knowledge for example server platforms, databases, analytics though we are still to work out on many details concerning the details of the collaboration.
Since IBM has a large portfolio of technology services, we will look at where each will fit in our curriculum.
How is IBM benefiting from this collaboration?
I suppose they are having a wider base of people who are already trained and understand their technologies so when people are out there in the market and thing of solutions, they will already be familiar with the solutions that IBM offers.
Have you had previous relationships with other tech vendors?
Yes we have very good relationships with Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and we have also received good support from Ericson and Nokia, so we are as a university specifically as iLab Africa we position ourselves with various technology companies that offer technology services. We have previously trained people to develop on different platforms, i.e. Android and very soon we will do the same for the Windows 8 platform, and all this is possible through collaborations.
More information about the collaboration from a press release published by IBM
"In the next five years, we expect IT enabled services to contribute 25 percent of the Kenyan GDP. We therefore need to develop massive human resource capacity in ICTs and nurture talented and skilled people to ensure that all Kenyan graduates are ready for the highly technical workplace," said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary of the Kenyan ministry for ICT. "This is the primary reason why we are aggressively partnering with the private sector to improve skills within ICT."
The IT industry is expected to grow by 11 percent annually in Kenya, creating a need for highly-skilled professionals capable of driving IT innovation and entrepreneurship. By bringing the latest enterprise technology and real-world scenarios into the classroom, students will gain market-ready skills and be better prepared to meet the needs of Kenya's growing IT market.
"We at Riara University are committed to nurturing innovators whilst inculcating a spirit of excellence, research and human resource development; such partnerships with leading innovators are critical to achieving our vision," said Prof. Kiarie Mwaura, vice chancellor, Riara University.
With the rapidly evolving technology landscape and increased financial pressures, the ability of universities to quickly respond to shifting market needs is challenging. Public sector-academic partnerships help universities produce graduates who have the right skills at the right time to meet market demands. With today's news, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Riara University and Strathmore University will have access to technology used in businesses around the world and the resources to put new course modules into place quickly.
As more organizations turn to technology to solve tough business challenges, the need for skilled IT professionals continues to grow in all industries around the world. Strengthening the IT skills base at the university level will help students drive local economic growth and innovation and prepare them to compete in the global IT market.
"This partnership with IBM will help build the next generation of IT business leaders and entrepreneurs by fostering innovation, local application of the latest technological advances and knowledge of industrial best practices. This is in line with Kenya's development goals as outlined in the Vision 2030 framework," said Dr George Njenga, deputy vice-chancellor and dean for research at Strathmore University. "This partnership aspires to aid in the development of the relevant skills in the classroom that will rapidly accelerate learning and keep students and scholars at par with the fast-paced growth of the world IT market."
According to Dr. Muliaro Wafula, the Director for ICT at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, "this collaboration will drive our efforts in offering quality and relevant training, research and innovation in ICT through our Institute of Computer Science and Information Technology."
"Working with universities is a way to speed up the skills development required for the next generation of experts that companies such as IBM and other international and local enterprises need to enhance and grow the IT sector in Kenya," said Tony Mwai, IBM general manager for East Africa. "Curriculum development and collaborative research reach a much wider student population."
This collaboration with three Kenyan universities includes the IBM Global Academic Initiative. Recently, IBM expanded this program to provide faculty with new resources in the areas of cyber security, big data, commerce and mobile computing. There are more than 30,000 global university faculty who use the no-charge resources in the IBM Academic Initiative to help close the IT skills gap. The program endeavors to support universities as they strengthen their educational programs so graduates can compete at the top of any industry.
The 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report reveals that only 1 in 10 managers feels his/her organization has the right combination of business and technology skills to be positioned for growth. Meanwhile, nearly half of surveyed educators and students identified a major gap in their institutions' current ability to teach those skills.
Peter generates technical content for CIO East Africa and the International Data Group News Service, he also contributes to PC World and Computer World. Peter is classically trained in computing and information management. Follow Peter on twitter @peternalika