Royal Norwegian Embassy hosts @iLabAfrica Kids Can Code Students

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The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kenya hosted the @iLabAfrica-Strathmore University Kids Can Code’s project beneficiaries at the Royal Norwegian Embassy ambassador’s residence to give an opportunity to the students to showcase their school ICT projects. The beneficiaries were Secondary School students from various schools in different parts of Kenya who had been selected to join the Kids Can Code program taught by the @iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre.

The project, a collaboration between @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University and ICT Norway, is formulated and implemented to offer coding skills to kids, especially girls. Kids Can Code program is an initiative for young people aged 10 – 17 years to learn Computer Science concepts and attain 21 century skills to become active contributors to the digital economy. These skills form a great foundation for the young people by inspiring problem solving, analytical and critical thinking skills. The project commenced in November 2019 with @iLabAfrica as the implementing partner and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the finance partner. The project has seen the two partners design the program, identify beneficiary schools and innovation hubs through collaboration with Association of Startup and SMEs Enablers of Kenya (ASSEK), holding strategy meetings with stakeholders, establishing coding clubs, curriculum design, website design, collating content, and skill transfer through online training.

The program curriculum is open and can be adopted by other institutions to impart computing skills on young people. The core topics included in the curriculum are CS-unplugged and computational thinking, web design with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, coding with PHP, database design with MYSQL, robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT), animations, game development, and app development. These areas were targeted because besides being a way of learning 21st century skills, they align well with the Kenyan secondary school Computer Studies syllabus. The supporting content for the program was collated and availed on the Kids Can Code website and can be accessed anywhere at any time.

Over the years there have been the establishment of twenty (20) coding clubs in twenty-nine (29) partner schools, seven (7) of which were girls’ schools, four (4) mixed schools and nine (9) boys’ schools. This involved identifying beneficiary schools and organising field trips, holding strategy meetings with the teachers and principals, and signing commitment letters to lobby for support of the management in promoting these clubs. The goal is to foster interest in the students so that they can embrace lifelong learning. Through collaboration with the Association of Startup and SMEs Enablers of Kenya (ASSEK) we identified 7 innovation hubs that we are supporting to build their capacity to establish coding clubs and partner with schools. Working with schools and hubs is a sustainability measure for clubs’ support beyond the project period.

About one hundred and forty-three (143) online training sessions were held benefiting over one thousand and seventeen (1,017) students through online attendance or recorded videos shared afterwards. Over twenty (20) teachers from the twenty 20 schools have directly benefited from the project and the workshops held. We further reached one hundred and thirty-three (133) teachers through the virtual conferences held on 4th November 2020 and on 29th October 2021. The conferences served to sensitise teachers on technology uptake, promote ICT integration in education, foster computer science education and encourage strategic partnerships. Five innovation hubs have also benefited from the resources shared and the curriculum developed. @iLabAfrica will continue more engagements with the hubs even as they support schools in establishing coding clubs. The initial plans had schools selected from Nairobi, Kiambu, Murang’a and Kajiado counties. Through the online training this reach was extended to rural economy counties like Kisumu, Kisii, Embu, Kilifi, Nyamira, Nakuru, Homabay, Kwale, Mombasa, and Kitui.

The schools presenting their projects were LaiserHill Academy, Ilbissil Girls Secondary School, Njiiri High School, Wahundura High School, Jamhuri High School and Highway Secondary School.

The projects presented are summarised in the table below:

Name of Project Name of School Project Brief 
Water Conservation System Highway Boys Secondary School  (Mohammed Obaso, Joshua Swiga, Ronnex Wanjohi & Shem Okello) The students came up with an Internet of Things IoT-based water management system that leverages the power of real-time data analytics to Respond and avoid adverse effects efficiently. Their system accurately checks the moisture content in the soil and sends a message to the phone of the user. 
Somak Ilbissil Girls Secondary School  (Neema Naipoi & Purity Neema)Somak Online Management Information System is a web-based project developed in PHP/MySQL which is designed to manage electronics and computer accessories online.
Shelly (Arduino Lego)LaiserHill School (Emefa Mackonnen & Amori Kamau)Emefa and Amori created a bot that senses color. The bot named shelly only nods in an up and down motion to the color it has been programmed to recognize. 
Brogrammers (School Web)Wahundura High School  (Ian Kamundi  &Samuel Ouda)The students created a website for both students and teachers to assist in e-learning. The covid-19 Pandemic greatly inspired the young men to come up with this site.
E- Venders Jamhuri High School  (John Joshua & Ibrahim Diriye)The students designed a site to bridge the gap between local store owners and the customers. It allows for local stores/suppliers to have an ever updated online inventory list.
OndocNjiiri Boys High School  (Kelly Mwangi & Jesse Kefa)An e-health system that collects all patients’ data and stores them online to give future/different doctors an easier time when coming up with a diagnosis. This is because the doctor is able to have a look at past medical records.  The system also allows for the patient to choose which doctor they would want to visit. The site also builds the relationship between doctors and patients by enabling an interactive platform. 

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS BUILD APP THAT OFFERS SOLUTIONS FOR AFRICA

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Winners: Equators Group– Tracy Nungo (Strathmore University), Tom Brown (University of Nairobi), Jimmy Chepkurui (Strathmore University), Maria Gitau (Strathmore University), Francis Otieno (Strathmore University) and Allan Lenkaa.

Strathmore University @iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre in partnership with Oracle Academy organised a 5-day virtual Bootcamp for undergraduate students in Kenya to train them build scalable and secure enterprise applications that address UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), using Oracle APEX.

In his opening remarks Mr. David Bunei, Oracle Kenya Country Leader said “the Oracle APEX training will give many developers an opportunity to build secure scalable applications in a short time to solve real world challenges” Further, he noted that the platform is being used globally by over 50,000 customers.

Over 500 applications were received from which 200 participants were shortlisted and selected to attend the two day Virtual bootcamp on Oracle APEX (a platform that enables you to build enterprise applications 20x faster with 100x less code) and concluded with a 3-day Virtual Hackathon event.

Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica-Strathmore University said “Participants should make use of this great opportunity by Oracle Academy and @iLabAfrica. It is an area that can make a tremendous impact on solving some of the problems that Africa faces. The projects developed here will go a long way to create solutions to local problems, develop skills and offer job opportunities.

The three-day hackathon saw participants build scalable and secure enterprise applications that address UN SDGs using Oracle APEX. They received mentorship and technical support from @iLabAfrica and were judged by a team comprising of subject matter experts in Software Development, Information Systems Security, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation who reviewed their final project solutions.

At the final stage of the bootcamp 16 unique Oracle APEX solutions that address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), within the Kenyan context, were developed and the top 3 best solutions were awarded.

56 schools were represented, Top 5 participants of the Bootcamp were from Strathmore University, KCA University, University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology.

Keating5 Group 2nd runners up:  Built a platform where people can sell/buy raw plastics, scrap metal or recyclable items. Their platform creates job opportunities and contributes to reduction of air, water and land pollution.

SDG17 Group 1st runners up: They addressed the UN SDG Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities. Their solution provides universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible, green, and public spaces, for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities.

Equators Group Winners: Their solution addressed SGD Goal 10 on Reduced Inequality. The team noted that traditionally, small scale farmer businesses in Rural areas in Kenya have limited access to financial services such as loans and other investor financing, due to their inability to collect, record and store credible financial information. Most loan applications require business owners to provides information such as proof of sales, through submission of invoices and receipts. To address this gap, the team built an Oracle APEX application, with capabilities to collect, record and maintain financial records. The information can then be certified and provided to a funding agency, through the application, with necessary approvals.

The students parted with skills and knowledge on Oracle APEX and could not wait to express their gratitude for the opportunity given. The opportunity to learn the Oracle APEX from the expert facilitators was a great opportunity for students to learn new efficient skills.

“The oracle apex Bootcamp was an amazing experience for me. I got to know how to navigate through various tools and create web apps in a short period of time, thanks to Oracle Academy and @iLabAfrica for the opportunity”Melisa Michuki, 2nd year computer Science student – University of Nairobi (UoN).

 “The experience was very informative, I learnt new technology and received all the motivation and support to try it out” said Loise Nyambura 4th year student from Zetech University.

Kevin Odhiambo a 3rd year, Computer Science student, from Kenyatta University who attended the bootcamp mentioned, “It’s a tool people should know exists. It really gets things done.”

The team leading the bootcamp from Oracle Academy was led by Ms. Bekere Amassoma, the Oracle Academy Program Manager, Sub Saharan Africa ” Oracle Academy is Oracle’s global philanthropic educational program, which aims to provide students with hands-on and practical skills to support IT students in becoming career ready.” said Mrs. Bekere Amassoma, while giving an overview of the Oracle Academy and its functions. “We are now dependent on technology for convenience and in almost all sectors including Security and for convenience. Oracle Academy supports the IT sector by filling the skills gap between IT workers and IT jobs worldwide” she added. 

Representing Strathmore University was Mrs. Lorna Mutegi, the Industry Relationship Manager at Strathmore University, also welcomed all participants and urged them to actively participate in the bootcamp. She noted that the program was designed to equip participants with technical skills on how to leverage on the Oracle APEX platform, that is widely used by more than 50,000 customers. “This is therefore a great opportunity for you to build a match needed skill in the market”, she added.

@iLabAfrica-Strathmore University

@iLabAfrica is a Centre of Excellence in ICT Innovation and Development at Strathmore University. The Centre spearheads Research and Innovation in Information Communication Technology for the Development (ICT4D) of ecosystems towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to contribute toward Kenya’s Vision 2030. The research Centre is involved in interdisciplinary research, students’ engagement and has partnered with over 800 institutions (Universities, NGOs, foundations, and government) worldwide and other funding agencies.

KQ AND STRATHMORE UNIVERSITY PARTNER TO SUPPORT INNOVATIVE BUSINESS SOLUTIONS BY YOUNG PEOPLE

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  • Partnership aims to resolve specific problems that affect businesses.
  • Provide academic and technical guidance around accuracy of innovation and entrepreneurial information.
  • Identify local and regional talent that may exist within the broader youth community and StartUp ecosystem.
KQ MOU Signing Lto R Grace Vihenda Innovation Hub Lead KQ,Mr. Julius Thairu- Ag. Chief Commercial & Customer Officer at KQ,Dr. Joseph Sevilla- Director iBizAfrica- Strathmore Univeristy and Linda Kwamboka iBizAfrica

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) and @iBizAfrica Incubation Centre Strathmore University Partner for the KQ’s Fahari Innovation Challenge to create opportunities for the youth and use tech innovations to resolve specific problems that affect businesses. The two organisations will provide technical guidance around accuracy of innovation and entrepreneurial information. KQ will provide internship opportunities to both undergraduate and post graduate students within the university and collaborate in research projects as well as co creation with Startups and SME’s within the Centre.

African economies have been under increasing socioeconomic pressure due to diminishing resources,
unemployment, changing demographic trends, rising demand for goods and services, and emerging sustainability and security concerns. 
African governments, industry players and education institutions have been exploring research and innovation as an engine for stimulating growth in line with Sustainable Development Goal 9, which underscores the importance of fostering innovation and investment in Research and Development to address these challenges.
Speaking during the MoU signing ceremony Dr. Joseph Sevilla- Director @iBizAfrica Incubation Centre said, “Our partnership with KQ for the second time is an indication of our dedication towards supporting the youth and businesses. As a Centre that will soon be celebrating a decade of existence, we look forward to assist KQ in identifying local and regional talent that may exist within the broader youth community and Start Up ecosystem.
This partnership will aid young entrepreneurs better understand the aviation industry and bring about creative ideas or solve problems that businesses may experience.” Through capacity building forums, training, and initiatives such as the Kenya Airways innovation challenge in collaboration with @iBizAfrica, Qhala, and SNDBX, many entrepreneurs have an opportunity to grow their startups to contribute to economic growth and address the challenge of unemployment.
Mr. Julius Thairu-Ag. Chief Commercial & Customer Officer at Kenya Airways said, “As an Airline collaboration is in the heart of what we do and this partnership with @iBizAfrica in the education sector is a great step towards making an impact in the ecosystem. Academic organizations and institutions are critical when it comes to developing talent. We have to be innovative and do things differently because customer needs and wants are constantly shifting and changing and institutions are constantly providing us with different views of doing things
differently.”

“As we progress we look forward to partner in developing students capacity in areas such as design challenge as well as in skills and leadership areas that will benefit both organizations,” added Mr Thairu.
@iBizAfrica incubation Centre is known for its nurturing environment that builds on the potential of the youth to develop innovative solutions and businesses’ that work for the common good in society. The Incubation Centre has over the years provided over 400 startup companies with training, advisory, mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities, access to seed capital and investors.
Audiences for the KQ Innovation Challenge are innovative individuals or companies that can create solutions that can interface with the aviation industry from the identified angles of the organizational spectrum. Eligibility is open to all, including individuals, partnerships and corporations that serve or would like to serve the aviation enterprise or industry.


About @iBizAfrica incubation Centre

@iBizAfrica is the business incubator of Strathmore University, a leading private University in Kenya. The incubator since 2012 provides a nurturing environment that builds on the potential of the youth to develop innovative solutions and businesses that work for the common good in society. @iBizAfrica over the years has provided over 400 startup companies with training, advisory, mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities, access to seed capital and investors. We prepare startups to be investor-ready and launch into the market through our custom incubation and acceleration programs. For more information, please visit www.ibizafrica.co.ke 
About the KQ Innovation Challenge
The Kenya Airways’ Fahari Innovation Hub is a springboard for new ideas and innovation that will help Kenya Airways and our society face our current and future challenges, to the benefit of both the national carrier and country. Kenya Airways is an innovative, forward-looking and responsible company with an inclusive agenda of empowering, partnering and co-creating with the local Start-ups & SMEs ecosystem; thus, contributing to the sustainable development of Africa.

Kenya Airways, Strathmore holds entrepreneurs’ innovation training

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Robert Yawe, mentor @iBizAfrica

Kenya Airways in collaboration with Strathmore University’s Research and Innovation Centre
@iLabAfrica, organizational support firm Qhala, and entrepreneur support hub SNDBX, held a
customer and idea validation training for entrepreneurs drawn from across the country.
The forum hosted by @ilabAfrica’s incubation unit, @iBizAfrica, exposed the young innovators
to experienced mentors who took them through important business concepts that will help
them expand their businesses in the current competitive age while also preparing them for the
upcoming KQ innovation challenge.


The entrepreneurs were taken through a rigorous market validation process aimed at
determining whether their proposed innovations have the potential to scale up, the specific
pathways to adopt and the resources to be required to achieve their intended objectives.
Innovators were also equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to help them pivot
their company business models and products.


Robert Yawe, mentor @iBizAfrica, took the attendants through topics such as business model
canvas development & analysis, hypothesis formulation, and testing, developing a minimum
viable product, and pivoting an innovation. “Customer discovery is very important in any business, it helps in determining who you want to serve and the problem you think is facing them. “Innovations are destructive and do not flourish under specific structures, this explains why large corporates get stuck in coming up with innovations; new ideas require a different mindset from the general operations of an organization,” said Mr. Yawe.

Mr. Yawe further challenged the innovators to improve on their technical competency in their
areas of innovation as it helps to drive their ideas in the right direction while also bringing down
some costs.
The workshop employed a validated learning approach and sought to support entrepreneurs in
accelerating their product development cycle while also helping them improve on the structure
and quality of proposed innovations.

Attending innovators expressed optimism and strong belief towards achieving the workshop
objectives based on the content and training offered to them, with a majority citing the forum
as a great learning point for them on how best to improve their startups.
“The training has been beneficial to me as an innovator, my biggest takeaways are;
implementing concept development of an idea that aims to solve a problem, and finally
marketing and advertising,” said Ms. Sheryl Mboya, entrepreneur and founder of Green X
Telemechanics Ltd.

“The workshop has been eye-opening, as an innovator, I now have a clear understanding of
how to identify the actual customer, I am innovating for the right pinpoint and how to monetize
it while ensuring that it solves the customer problem and contributes positively to the
company’s bottom line,” said Daniel Kiriungi from InterSwitch Kenya.
African economies are coming under increasing socioeconomic pressure due to diminishing
resources, unemployment, changing demographic trends, rising demand for goods and services,
and emerging sustainability and security concerns. 
To address these challenges, African governments, industry players and education institutions
must explore research and innovation as an engine for stimulating growth in line with
Sustainable Development Goal 9, which underscores the importance of fostering innovation
and investment in Research and Development.
Through capacity building forums, training, and initiatives such as the Kenya Airways innovation
challenge by KQ in collaboration with @iBizAfrica, Qhala, and SNDBX, many entrepreneurs in
the country stand better chances of growing up their startups and contributing towards
economic growth which ultimately helps address major challenges such as unemployment.


ABOUT THE KQ INNOVATION CHALLENGE
As the pace of change accelerates, especially now in the middle of a global pandemic,
corporates have become increasingly aware of the need to tackle innovation from different
perspectives. Kenya Airways recognizes that Start-ups and SMEs are an invaluable source of
innovation that can catalyze growth and provide much-needed business solutions to our
everyday challenges. We understand that collaborating with Start-ups/ SMEs is a key driver for
meaningful change and mutual benefits. We are looking for exciting new partnerships with
Start-ups/ SMEs to innovate and build relationships with; as well as continually learn from each
other to ensure that our partnerships are objective and effective. The Kenya Airways’ Fahari
Innovation Hub is a springboard for new ideas and innovation that will help Kenya Airways and
our society face our current and future challenges, to the benefit of both the national carrier
and country. Kenya Airways is an innovative, forward-looking and responsible company with an
inclusive agenda of empowering, partnering and co-creating with the local Start-ups & SMEs
ecosystem; thus, contributing to the sustainable development of Africa.

Supporting Refugee Education in Kenya

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Today, the world counts millions of refugees across the different continents but only a fraction of them have access to education at all levels. Despite the multiple education and public health problems in refugee camps and the need to build local capacities to prevent and combat them, education facilities are largely unavailable for refugees in camps.

Kenya is one of the countries hosting the largest refugee population in Africa. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2019), Kenya is host to 560,134 refugees spread across the different camps in Dadaab, Kakuma, and Nairobi.

Windle Trust Kenya (WTK) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with Strathmore University, through @iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre, has offered Certified Public Accountant (CPA) course to refugees based at the Kakuma refugee camp.

The UNHCR expects Kenyan refugee operations to continue being marked by the political developments and humanitarian situation in the region, mainly in the two main refugee-producing countries i.e. Somalia and South Sudan. In Somalia, despite the moderate gains made in the past three years, the humanitarian situation is expected to remain fragile, with over some 24.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The program, offered through the Digital Learning Unit of @iLabAfrica, supported the less privileged students with access to tertiary education and was rolled out in July 2016.

Victor Malombe, Digital Learning Assistant at @iLabAfrica, says that the training of the students adopted a blended approach including face-to-face and online learning and the first phase saw 24 students being enrolled and completing the CPA section 1 course.

“This joint venture with UNHCR and WTK is aimed at adopting digital technology to deliver educational opportunities to refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. CPA training has been offered by the Strathmore University School of Accountancy (SOA) and the project has been successful in Kakuma, benefiting 24 students” says Mr. Malombe.

During the training period, students were taken through courses in financial accounting, entrepreneurship, communication, and law. The classes were mainly conducted online with lecturers later visiting the camp to facilitate further revision. Various study kits were also provided to the students with unlimited access to enable a better understanding of concepts and performance in the KASNEB exams.

Attending students and officers at WTK also had the chance of learning more skills in digital learning which will aid in the execution of other educational programs in the future.

“The students and lecturers were also trained how to effectively use video conferencing platforms to learn and teach respectively. At Kakuma, the Academic Programme Officer (Martin Njue – WTK) was trained and assisted students in setting up classes and helped in troubleshooting any issues relating to the platform throughout the program period” says Mr. Malombe.

The successful completion and good performance by students have seen the establishment of a KASNEB examination center at Windle Trust Kenya-Kakuma upon the request of Strathmore University. This will aid the easy execution of professional courses offered by KASNEB to refugees based at the refugee camp and surrounding areas.

Among the refugee population in Kenya, over half are children of school age (4-18 years), a majority of refugee and asylum-seeking learners are enrolled in the few pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, institutions located in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, and Kalobeyei settlement. A small number of them get chances to join tertiary education institutions in the country or abroad.

The United Nations classifies education as a fundamental human right, it is a powerful agent of change, and improves health and livelihoods, contributes to social stability, and drives long-term economic growth.

Education also protects young people, when children are in school, they are less vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse, child labor, and recruitment to criminal and militia groups.  Educated individuals are more likely to make positive choices regarding their household’s health and nutrition.  They are also more likely to contribute to their households and communities, both during displacement, on return home, or after resettlement to another country.

Education for refugees is a means of enabling a promising future, whether in their home countries or for integration in countries of asylum. The refugees in Kenya hope to improve their livelihoods and find alternative educational settings where their children can have more access and improved quality education at all levels.

Initiatives such as the Sustainable and Affordable Access to Education for Refugees by Strathmore University, UNHCR, and WTK play a major role in leveraging refugee access to education with other populations in the world, creating fair competition and increased access to opportunities.

The Digital Learning Unit at @iLabAfrica works on innovations in the area of Information Communication Technology for Education (ICT4E); it also works with different stakeholders in the government and private sector to enable the use of ICT effectively in teaching, creativity, and delivery of educational content to learners and stakeholders in all levels of study.

Church readings go digital

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The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been devastating across all sectors of the economy, Human life has been greatly interrupted, occasioning social and economic changes that would have never been thought of some years ago.

The church, being an integral part of society, has been one of the most affected institutions during the pandemic. After the declaration of coronavirus as a global pandemic, all places of worship such as churches and mosques had to temporarily suspend their activities, and find new ways of reaching out to congregations and the most vulnerable in the society.

Paulines Africa-Roman Catholic publishers in collaboration with Strathmore University’s Research and Innovation Centre, @iLabafrica through the IT consulting and Outsourcing Unit have digitized the Catholic daily missal, making it available remotely on phone.

Through the new mobile application, the Catholic faithful are now able to access the new English translation of the order of the Mass and all the prayers that are found in the Roman Missal for each day of the year. It includes biblical readings for Sunday, Weekdays, Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials.

Roman Catholics follow what’s happening during Holy Mass with the Catholic missal, a special book containing all prayers, readings, and order of activities. Missals are helpful for those Catholics who desire to live and pray every day in the spirit of the liturgy according to the constitution of the Holy Mass.

According to Samson Ndambuki, software developer at @iLabAfrica, the new application provides Catholics with vast information for all church year cycles of A, B & C, easily accessible via their mobile phones.

“The new daily missal platform comes with an all-year detailed content for the Catholic Church, making it easy for someone to access it whenever needed. The application comes in IOS and Android versions, available in both apple and google store for download for $20 as a one-off purchase” says Mr. Ndambuki.

Catholic Missals can be expensive, but keep in mind that it’s a treasured book that joins Catholics with the prayers and feasts of the Church throughout the year. It becomes an investment in your faith that it can be used for decades.

In an online review, Brian Micino, who uses the platform says the new application excellently provides great content.

“This is a great app for daily Mass readings, easy to browse through, I always have it during Mass,” says Mr. Micino.

The disruptions in religious activities by the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of technology, just as in other sectors, in the delivery of religious services, teachings and prayers worldwide.

The most dramatic result in religion has been the exceedingly quick shift of religious services from in-person to online worship. While for almost a hundred years, churches have used various communication methods to reach their audiences, such as radio, television, and online media, the halting of in-person worship has been one of the most significant sudden disruptions in the practice of religion globally.

In many cases, churches have expanded existing worship to online networks or established new services online using different forms of social media, websites, TV, and radio. Several churches reported the positive effects of ‘going online as an opportunity for creativity and the ability to reach audiences outside the usual physical gatherings.

Some studies in technology have highlighted an increased interest in watching and participating in online church services during the lockdown. The interconnectivity promoted by digital technologies has helped promote the ability of individuals to participate in religious activities from different locations, including those who previously may have never stepped inside a church.

The advancement and use of technology is a major driving factor in today’s culture. People are influenced by technology in both lifestyles and habits; with technology, religion stands better chances of growth, reaching a widespread population of followers from different locations without necessarily having them physically attending the premises. It also comes with improved communication channels and delivery of important messages to all church stakeholders, bringing much-needed efficiency in religious operations.

The IT consulting and Outsourcing unit at @iLabAfrica focuses on customizing and developing solutions for clients by providing advice and end-to-end support for the entire product-development life-cycle in organizations, through managing, implementing, deploying, and administering IT systems solutions.

Universal Curriculum to address the needs of the African entrepreneurs

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AfriLabs, Strathmore partner to develop African incubation curriculum

AfriLabs-Africa’s umbrella body that brings together innovation hubs across the continent entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Strathmore University’s Research and innovation Centre, @iLabAfrica for the development of a universal incubation curriculum to be rolled out across continent.

The curriculum has been developed through the @iBizAfrica incubation unit of @iLabAfrica and has seen the generation of an academic tailored training content, suited to address the needs of the African entrepreneurs and grow the African dream.

AfriLabs programs team led by Director of Programs Nanko Madu visited Strathmore University for the official launch and roll out in a meeting that was also attended by host Vice Chancellor Designate, Dr. Vincent Ogutu, @iLabAfrica Director Dr. Joseph Sevilla, @iBizAfrica incubation manager Ms. Linda Kwamboka among other players in the incubation industry.

Through the new content, the different innovation hubs spread across the continent will be provided with a curriculum that resonates with the specific needs of entrepreneurs in the sub regions in East Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, North Africa and West Africa while also trying to address common challenges.

Speaking during the event, Dr. Ogutu lauded AfriLabs efforts of supporting innovation centers across the continent through capacity building, training and access to capital, citing that it was important supporting the African dream from within.

“This is a good idea of bringing together incubators across Africa to work together especially Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria which have a vibrant entrepreneurial culture.

“Incubations mean a lot for the growth of startups and the economy at large, many African economies are made of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which make a lot of contributions to the economy” said Dr. Ogutu.

According to a 2018 World Bank Report, there has been disconnect between industry, angel donors, venture capitalists and research in Africa. This has resulted in few Research and Development (R&D) outputs being scaled up. The lack of training and capacity building also compounds the challenges meaning that quite often African innovations rarely grow beyond just being an idea or prototype in the hubs.

The head of programs at AfriLabs expressed confidence in the new partnership with Strathmore University, citing the huge academic experience at the institution as a big asset that will aid in the success of many startups through access to relevant content.

“Our work involves building the capacity of startups and improving their chances of survival despite the numerous challenges. Strathmore brings its huge expertise in academia, they have done a lot here in Kenya through @iBizAfrica Centre and this marks the beginning of a bigger role in advancing startups in Africa” said Ms. Madu.

Ms. Madu further added that whereas many innovators in Africa have good ideas, it has been challenging to make them understand that entrepreneurship goes beyond an idea and a lot always has to be done for real actualization, saying that it will be made possible through education in the new design curriculum.

@iBizAfrica, started in 2012 has been instrumental in the support of startups in Kenya through mentorship, training, coaching and access to funds through competitions such as the ‘Women in Tech challenge’ which was implemented in collaboration with Standard Chartered Bank with the final winners getting a seed funding of 10,000 Euros to grow their business.

The Strathmore based incubator has supported more than 400 startups in the last nine years, registering a 78 percent success rate according to Administrator @iBizAfrica Diana Tiren.

The new collaboration also seeks to help startups address challenges in skills development and capacity to run institutions while also providing access to funding, networking forums, advocacy and public policies.

Deployment of the curriculum through the different regional centers will help foster networking and cross country collaborations, by sharing experiences, innovators will get to learn from each other, getting different approaches of advancing their work.

Entrepreneurship must be at the heart of efforts to transform Africa’s economic prospects, ecosystems to support African entrepreneurs, particularly small and medium firms, must also be tailored to the African context by stakeholders working with entrepreneurs along the entire growth path, rather than through a fragmented approach.

According to the African Development Bank (ADB,2021) 22 percent of Africa’s working-age population are starting businesses, presenting the highest entrepreneurship rate in the world. This demonstrates the need for innovation hubs and institutions coming up with good support systems that will create a thriving entrepreneurial culture in the continent as demonstrated by the collaboration between AfriLabs and @iBizAfrica.

About AfriLabs

AfriLabs is a network organization supporting Innovation Centers across African countries since 2011, founded upon the mission of building a community around the rapidly emerging technology hubs in Africa. 

These hubs serve as centers that provide support to African entrepreneurs, innovators, developers, and youths. By providing physical co-working and dedicated office spaces, as well as inclusive training and business, legal and financial support, we play an active role in helping to raise successful entrepreneurs who will create jobs and develop innovative solutions to African problems.

Kenya and Estonia Partner to train on e-Governance.

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Strathmore University (Kenya) on Friday September 10 2021 entered into an agreement with Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), based in Estonia for purposes of knowledge exchange and support in curriculum development for training on e-governance.  

The event held at the Strathmore University Auditorium was attended by Estonian President H.E. Mrs. Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonian Honorary Consul to Kenya Kadri Humal Ayal, Cabinet Secretary in charge of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru, Foreign Affairs CS Rachelle Omamo, Chief Justice Martha Koome, Strathmore University Vice Chancellor Designate Vincent Ogutu among other high ranking government and University officials saw the beginning of a joint collaboration supported by the Estonian Development Cooperation between TalTech and Strathmore Business School (SBS) to aid in e-governance training in the country.

In a panel session that involved the visiting president, Mr. Mucheru, Ms. Koome and Dr. Ogutu, the leaders held a high level think tank meeting on the sustainability of e-Governance in Kenya, discussing the gains made, possible areas of improvement and how it can learn from the Estonian model which is among the best globally.

Speaking during the event, Dr. Ogutu said that Universities play a critical role in the in the development of digital systems in many countries across the world because of their neutral nature and good will from the public.

“People will always embrace digital systems when they believe in them, and this can be done by Universities, in this new partnership we will be training people on how to use online platforms while also trying to make them understand the Estonian transformation in a local context” said Dr. Ogutu.

Through the agreement, Strathmore seeks to harness TalTech’s huge experience in technology training to support the development of local skills in the various sectors by coming up with courses that are tailored to the needs of the population and government on digitization of processes.

The visiting head of state challenged the government to invest more on digital delivery of services as it cuts down operational costs while bringing more efficiency, confidentiality and timely execution of tasks.

“We spend 1% of the Estonian GDP every year on the digital section, we are sure this is money spent well because it saves another 2% of the GDP by doing everything digitally. Kenya is not doing badly in terms of e-Governance because products like M-pesa have made mobile money easy and popular, linking it with digital IDs can be a game changer in my view” said Mrs. Kaljulaid.

In his address, Mr. Mucheru said that the government remained committed towards implementing digital initiatives as they come with unprecedented benefits, citing the ongoing cooperation with Estonia as an indication of state intention and willingness to benchmark with the best in matters technology.

“Technology provides a route to get market leaders quickly, we can be able to measure how different services are offered, currently more than 120 government services are offered online such as passport, visa, good conduct applications and more recently covid-19 certificates” said Mr. Mucheru.

Mr. Mucheru further added that the government was keen on supporting young people in the country who have a lot of interest in online jobs by investing in digital infrastructures and creating an enabling environment.

“It is our aspiration to have free internet, we have more than 250 centers across the country through the Ajira Digital Program which have been able to offer more internet access to our youth while also bringing down the cost of internet.

Estonia is one of the leading countries in the world with a strong digital presence and delivery of government services being done online.

Estonia was among the pioneers of e-voting, trialing online voting for municipal elections in 2015. It has continued to implement the electronic voting system, which was also used during election that saw Mrs. Kaljulaid cling to the presidency.

The country runs e-ID system, one of the most advanced in the world, which allows owners to sign on travel documents or even insurance certification remotely. It means that people can apply for travel documents without setting foot in the bureau. They also have an e-residency permit, which allows people including those outside the country to access certain services electronically. The country was known for e-schooling, long before Covid-19 forced schools to implement one.

In Estonia, parents can remotely check their children’s performance at school and contact teachers directly.  Other digitalized services in Estonia include delivery services by robots, e-medical prescriptions, mobile parking, learning the local language and filing taxes.

The collaboration between Strathmore and TalTech is one of the many initiatives that seek to improve Kenyans understanding and practice of digital processes by first investing in training of citizens, policy leaders and other stakeholders on the importance of strong online systems.

TalTech University

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is the only flagship of technical and IT science and education in Estonia, where higher education is available at all levels in engineering and technical sciences, information technology, economics, natural sciences and maritime affairs. TalTech’s mission is to be a promoter of science, technology and innovation and a leading provider of engineering and economic education in Estonia. More information can be found at: https://taltech.ee/en.

Digital transformation & e-Governance forum in Kenya

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How digitization makes life easier in Estonia

From Left Kedi Valba, Prof. Bitange Ndemo and Dr. Joseph Sevilla

Strathmore University’s Research and innovation Centre, @iLabAfrica took part in a high level discussion on 10th September 2021 that sought to understand the state of digital transformation, e-Governance and cyber security in the country while also offering insights on best practices going forward.

The forum brought together top government officials, industry experts and major policy players in the technology sector such as @iLabAfrica Director Dr. Joseph Sevilla, leading Entrepreneurship expert from University of Nairobi Prof. Bitange Ndemo, Policy researcher from Strathmore Business School Mr. John Sergon, Kedi Välba-TalTech University Alumni & African Regional Manager, Aktors – Estonia.

Through the session the experts in the quest for digital shift in the country deliberated on how the country was fairing and how best it can improve so as to leverage with leading technology countries such as Estonia which has been lauded globally for its strong online systems and Processes.

In his presentation, Dr. Sevilla highlighted that @iLabAfrica was at the forefront of driving a shift to strong digital systems in the country by offering opportunities, research and training in modern areas of technology such as cybersecurity, e-health, data science, digital learning, Internet of Things (IoT) while also trying to address major societal challenges using technology.

Dr. Joseph Sevilla

“At our Centre, we look at how we can take advantage of technology to solve local problems, I am happy to see how Estonia has achieved a smart system, for us we have so far worked with county governments to help them automate their revenue collection systems and issuance of documents such as permits, making it possible for citizens to conduct such activities remotely using their mobile phones.

“We will also be travelling to other countries in Africa to implement similar systems because this comes with great efficiency and all transactions can be easily tracked” said Dr. Sevilla.

The @iLabAfrica Director further indicated that the Centre has been working with local partners to build on expertise in the different areas such as cybersecurity where jointly with BCK Kenya and ACPM IT they have set up a Security Operations Center, offering real time IT security services to companies and helping them detect and address threats immediately.

Ms. Välba while sharing her experience from Estonian background reiterated the importance of education, training and a digital mindset by the public as key factors to aid in a successful shift to e-Governance.

“Education is key in the process, TalTech and Strathmore University will train and educate people on how digitization makes life easier, it is important to begin at the primary level. Technology is always the easiest part, the biggest role is change management, mindset and having like-minded people with a digital mindset” said Ms. Välba.

With the rise in mobile penetration across the country and increased reliance on mobile money services, it remains critical for the government to embrace secure systems that protect citizens’ data while offering efficiency.

“We have more than three million people who rely on mobile money services daily, are our infrastructures safe? Data is borderless, transformative, invasive and can also be scary, the key issue in national security is ensuring safe systems free of attacks” said Mr. Sergon.

Former Industrialization Principal Secretary Prof. Ndemo noted that for the country to achieve sustainable e-Governance there was need to fully embrace emerging technologies such as block chain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which are able to address most of the challenges faced in the country especially on fake academic papers to ward off unqualified persons from contesting public offices during elections.

Whereas e-Governance comes with increased transparency, efficiency and productivity to the citizens, its implementation in many African countries continues to face numerous hurdles such as limited capacity in terms of training, infrastructure, lack of political goodwill and financial constraints, it remains to be a key pillar of the industrial revolution 4.0. 

From Left Kedi Valba, Prof. Bitange Ndemo, Dr. Joseph Sevilla and John Sergon (2)

Research and Innovation Hubs such as @iLabAfrica of Strathmore University continues to play major roles in ensuring successful adoption of technologies such as e-Governance by offering training, research and innovation for full actualization of the digital transformation in Kenya.

The event culminated with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Strathmore University and TalTech University, Estonia, an agreement that will see the two institutions jointly working together in the development of a curriculum to offer e-governance related training in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mobile App offers educational and networking platform for small scale farmers in East Africa.

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Technology adoption and implementation is becoming a core part of modern world, it affects the way individuals communicate, learn, and think. It helps society and determines how people interact with each other on a daily basis. Technology plays an important role in society today, it has positive effects on the world and it impacts daily lives. We are living in an era where technological advances are common, the internet and cell phones are some of the common examples which have greatly transformed todays interactions and access to information.

One aspect of technology is that it has had a great impact on society on how learning happens. It has made learning more interactive and collaborative with people engaging well with learning materials remotely. Also, it gets learners better access to resources, with creation of the internet, it provides an unlimited access to information on a twenty-four-hour basis and people can get almost anything online.

Sustainable development, climate change and conservation agriculture, are increasingly becoming important areas in developing countries with many Governments, Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and global development agencies working on development projects across the globe aimed at eradication of poverty, better ecosystems and improved living standards.

According to the United Nations (UN, 2015), In order to eradicate poverty and reorient current unsustainable development trajectories over the period 2015 to 2030, affordable technological solutions have to be developed and disseminated widely in the next fifteen years. The Means of Implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda could nevertheless provide an opportunity to address some of the gaps hindering the facilitation and transfer of technologies in the delivery of global development initiatives.

Vi Agroforestry in collaboration with the IT Consulting and Outsourcing Unit at Strathmore University’s Research and Innovation Centre, @iLabAfrica have developed a mobile based application, Sustainable Agricultural Land Management (M-SALM) aimed at enhancing training, dissemination of information in the execution of rural development initiatives in Africa.

Vi Agroforestry is a Swedish development organization working in the fight against poverty and climate change through tree planting initiatives, training and support to small holder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania – countries that have been severely affected by deforestation and climate change.

Through the mobile platform, the development organization has developed a digital approach aimed at improving its capacity and that of partner organizations, enhancing project monitoring, evaluation, accuracy and timely dissemination of information to farmer groups across all the project areas.

According to Samson Ndambuki, Software Developer at @iLabAfrica, M-SALM is available on google store and offers all project stakeholders a good forum for engagement and execution of project activities.

“This mobile platform has been developed with the aim of enabling agricultural training to farmers and provision of conservation agriculture content, farmers have unlimited access to important manuals on best practices and guides from Field Officers while also delivering feedback on different project activities from the comfort of their homes” says Mr. Ndambuki.

The application focuses on web-based knowledge management system, dissemination of information via mobile devices and digital content to beneficiaries for enhanced capacity building in order to strengthen the effectiveness of rural development programs. This will lead to Vi Agroforestry increasing the proportion of households that implement agroforestry and sustainable agriculture land management practices based on the ease of access to knowledge from the new platform.

Through increased access to information from the M-SALM application, a rise in implementation of sustainable agriculture concepts will improve the livelihoods of tens of thousands of rural households, mitigating the effects of climate change and building resilience to climate change in local communities.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS, 2019) indicates that Kenya is home to more than 50 Million people with a majority of the population working as small holder farmers growing maize, tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables.

Unreliable rainfall patterns, soil erosion and climate change are some of the biggest threats to farming in developing countries, through digital platforms, access to information by farmers can help mitigate this challenges with farmers being able to adopt best farm practices suited for their regions.

Technology has made revolutionary changes to human life, as human population keeps on growing, we are aware on which kind of plants to grow in various climates and conditions, this has been possible because of technology enhancements. A large population now has access to information on how we can improve agriculture, boost food production and increase food supply, resulting in an overall improvement of living standards.

Meeting sustainable development goals will require action on a number of fronts, including harnessing and maximizing the potential of technological innovations in the different areas of development. This demonstrates the importance of mobile solutions such as M-SALM in the field of rural agriculture.

The IT Outsourcing and Consulting Unit at @iLabAfrica works with different clients in government and private institutions, developing customized digital solutions by providing end-to-end support during product development and deployment.