Supporting Refugee Education in Kenya

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

How Tech is saving lives by predicting floods and drought in Kenya

Posted on

Climate change has had significant effects on the natural and social components of global systems. Changes in extreme weather and climate events have had significant impacts and are among the most serious challenges for all human societies today.

 In recent decades, an unprecedented number of extreme climate events have occurred in different parts of the world, such as unusually hot days and nights, fewer unusually cold days and nights, while heavy rainfall has also become more frequent and intense. In addition, more extreme and frequent floods and droughts have been occurring and remain anticipated in the future. All of these factors exert a major influence at regional scales, potentially increasing the risk of disaster for both human and environmental systems.

Feasible regional climate scenarios are necessary to efficiently adapt to climate change and to mitigate the risk of disaster, especially when extreme weather and high impact climatic events are concerned. Confidence in projecting changes in the direction and magnitude of climate extremes depends on many factors, for example, the type of extreme, the region, and season, the amount and quality of observational data, the understanding of underlying processes, and the reliability of model simulations, especially at the regional scale.

East Africa continues to experience unprecedented records of floods and drought, associated with extreme climatic conditions, which have had devastating effects on socioeconomic activities. Given the vulnerabilities to extreme weather events in the region, mitigation and adaptation strategies are necessary as part of long-term plans to help address such challenges. An important aspect of mitigating the impacts of drought is effective methods for predicting future flood and drought events.

Kenya lies within the tropical climatic zone that is faced with different extreme weather conditions in different areas. The Northern region exhibits dry conditions with central and western Kenya being wet areas receiving high rainfall.

Strathmore University, through its Research and Innovation Centre, @ILabAfrica in collaboration with Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) have been working on a project aimed at enabling prediction of floods and drought in the country to enable the implementation of mitigation measures.

The project team evaluated existing physical and data-driven regional models focusing on spatial and temporal scales, assumptions, outputs, and efficacy in their prediction of climate extremes, proposing a tool to map regions and collect all the climate details on selected regions to enable farmers and other stakeholders make data-driven climate decisions.

The project is aimed at modeling the use modern technologies of machine learning algorithms, Artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in the correct prediction of drought and floods before they happen.

In the project deployment, Narok and Ahero were chosen for their prevalence to floods while Wajir and Turkana were selected because of the continued drought occurrences in the areas.

Jeremy Gachanja, Data analyst at @iLabAfrica faults foreign models for wrongly getting weather predictions in Kenya and Africa and large, citing that the new project provides more accurate models of forecasting African extreme climates.

“Global Climatic Models (GCMs) which are developed abroad do not do an adequate job when it comes to forecasting weather conditions in Kenya, specifically in Narok, Wajir, Turkana and Ahero. However, the application of machine learning algorithms in weather forecasting yields better results than those from GCMs. Therefore, in order to adequately forecast weather in Kenya and in Africa, machine learning algorithms would be the best place to start” says Mr. Gachanja.

“In the modelling for extreme weather conditions in Kenya, we used two approaches, Outlier detection modeling and use of Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) in the modeling for floods and droughts respectively. For floods the outlier based detection models was preferred as our choice of regions (Narok and Ahero) are mostly affected by flash floods and as such we wanted to see whether extreme positive outliers may be the cause of the floods in Narok and Ahero.

“For drought however, it cannot be such a drastic occurrence, as such we sought to use an index to determine whether or not a drought would occur and model future occurrences using that index. We used the Standard Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) that is commonly used as the drought index for predicting floods. The ANN came in to predict the prospective droughts in our regions (Wajir and Turkana).” Said Mr. Alvin Igobwa, Business Intelligence Analyst at @iLabAfrica and lead researcher in the project.

According to Mr. Igobwa, policy leaders, government and local authorities will now be in a better position to make evidence driven decisions derived from data obtained through the project, this will enable for better preparedness in the wake of floods and drought situations.

Advances in technology have demonstrated data-driven models as promising tools for forecasting atmospheric, climatic, and hydrological variables. Data-driven models such as machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithms use historical climate patterns and data attributes such as recognized climate indices to make climate projections by learning the linear or non-linear relationship between predictors and the outcome of interests. The advantages of data-driven models over physical climate models are the explanations and more relevant information.  

Drought and Flood occurrences have huge social consequences to individuals and communities, the immediate effects of flooding include loss of human life, property damage, crop destruction, livestock loss and deterioration of health conditions due to waterborne diseases. A technology driven approach in the management of these two disasters will go a long way towards enabling a more stable human life with minimal interruptions in the wake of disaster occurrences as they will be well prepared to handle them.

Skills in emerging technologies offers hope for Kenyan youth.

Posted on

Equipping Kenyan youth with technological skills to curb unemployment.

A young workforce with skills in emerging technologies heightens the chances of achieving vision 2030 agenda for sustainable development in the fast-paced digital economy

The technology sector is one of the fast growing industries in the world, emerging technologies are affecting the way of doing things, from making phone calls to how companies and government institutions operate, the working environment is expected to keep on adapting to transformations brought about by technology.

In modern times, employment requirements are high and competition for positions remains to be stiff, the youth and professionals are required to understand how new technologies are affecting the job market and getting familiar with new inventions to fit into needs of the market.

A World Bank report through the Digital Adoption Index (2020) indicates that new technologies are transforming economic opportunities, a trend that has been accelerated by businesses and institutions in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

African technology industry is rapidly growing with technology hubs in the continent growing by more than 50 per cent in the last decade, with this trend expected to accelerate, talents need to be nurtured in the new digital areas to provide a market driven workforce.

The Kenyan job market has witnessed technology disruption first hand with top tier institutions enacting job cuts with others offering young people with skills training to thrive into the digital driven economy.

A 2019 survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicated that more than 7 million young people are grappling with unemployment in the country, one of the reasons cited for their lack of opportunities being inadequate digital skills set for the dynamic job market.

The Kenyan government continues to facilitate technological growth. In May 2019, the president launched the Digital Economy Blueprint, which presented a framework to improve Kenya and Africa’s ability to leapfrog economic growth, including massive investment in fibre-optic cable infrastructure.

Consequently, the venture has enabled better connectivity allowing more young people, including those in rural areas, to access high-speed internet, this will be instrumental in the advancement of digital technologies across the country.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business. Many companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has also significantly accelerated.

To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires an understanding of emerging technologies by employees, most firms now recognize savvy workers’ importance as a critical component of driving growth while also improving processes, quality control and efficiency.

Equipping young people with technological skills will help them prepare for the future work that is already upon us. In addition, soft-skills training are necessary which enables tomorrow’s workforce to take on responsibilities in technology-based enterprises.

Strathmore University’s Research and Innovation Centre-@iLabAfrica offers a Certificate in Emerging Technologies(CET) course which equips learners with foundational skills in the emerging areas of Data Science, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing.

According to Ms. Rael Kilonzo, Project Coordinator for Executive Education at @iLabAfrica, the course equips learners with technical skills in modern technologies while offering professional development skills in Web and Mobile Applications development.

“@iLabAfrica we always strive to create high quality content that can speed up innovation by imparting knowledge and skills to the young generation. The CET course has been designed to equip form four leavers and other individuals with fundamentals skills of emerging technologies. Learners not only get an opportunity to specialize in the specific IT areas but also learn how to potentially change the world using technologies that are driving global revolution” said Ms. Kilonzo.

With a digitally prepared youth population, it is feasible for Kenya and African countries to curb unemployment and secure a future for the young generation. A young workforce with skills in emerging technologies heightens the chances of achieving vision 2030 agenda for sustainable development in the fast-paced digital economy.

Across the African continent, the relentless spread of networks, sensors, artificial intelligence, and automation is driving a revolution to an unknown destination. A workforce with Skills in Emerging technologies will help governments and institutions drive economic growth through initiatives such as digitization of government departments and processes such as revenue collections which curbs corruption.

Emerging technologies are expected to have a powerful impact on the security and stability of African states, having the right skills set for security officers will help in the implementation of a technology based approach in the fight against terrorism in the continent.

To enroll for the Digital Marketing Masterclass at Strathmore University, kindly email rkilonzo@strathmore.edu or visit the website http://www.ilabafrica.ac.ke/index.php/digital-marketing/

How Kenyan Businesses are leveraging on Digital Marketing to Increase Sales.

Posted on

Kenya is leading Africa in internet penetration at 83 percent.

The world of digital media is changing at a very fast pace. Its constantly evolving technologies and the way different people use them is transforming not only access to information, but also human interactions and communications on a global scale, this has extended to affect how people choose and buy products and services from different companies.

Digital marketing, also called online marketing is one of the online practices on the rise, it has also been described as the promotion of brands to connect with potential customers using digital communication forms and the internet, this includes not only email, social media, and web-based advertising, but also text and multimedia messages as a marketing channel.

Over the years marketing has evolved to adapt to the increasingly online world, professionals and businesses have had to adapt to maintain a competitive advantage and avoid being left out.

The main focus of businesses is getting as many clients and customers in through the door as possible, marketing holds the key to attracting them and generating leads. A survey by the American Marketing Association found that most of the savvy businesses are relying exclusively on digital marketing in 2021.

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC, 2021), the world entered the digital era firmly in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many companies to adopt digital methods of staying in business while also running day to day operations. This has made businesses transition to the digital models of advertising as well for them to survive.  

This rapid switch has made organizations realize that going digital is productive and cost effective. The importance of digital marketing lies in the fact that it provides multiple innovative solutions and, businesses will continue to capitalize on this trend in coming years. Digital marketing resonates with the young generation who form the bulk of a business’ client/customer base today.

Data from a World Bank research (2020) indicates that African countries are facing a digital skills gap which is negatively affecting economic opportunities and development. The report further indicates that by 2030, average digital skills will be required for 50-55% of jobs in Kenya, 35-45% in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and 20-25% in Mozambique. This highlights the importance of investments in digital skills which will create new opportunities while also helping lower unemployment levels in the country.

A survey conducted by Internet World Stats in 2019 indicates that Kenya is leading Africa in internet penetration at 83 percent. Kenya is seen to be fast moving towards a digital economy, though not at the required pace according to the 2019 World Development Report, which seeks to explore how internet use as a result of advances in technology today.

@iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre of Strathmore University offers a certificate course in Digital Marketing which targets young people willing to pursue careers in the digital marketing world and professionals in the sector.

Ms. Rael Kilonzo, Project Coordinator for Executive Education at Strathmore University says that the Digital Marketing Masterclass offers learners with market relevant skills that enable them to thrive in the professional environment while delivering for their organizations, companies.

“Our course is well tailored for men and women who would like to conquer the world with exceptional online marketing skills, in times like today, ambitious businesses can reach customers from all over the world using Digital Marketing skills which highlights its importance. At @iLabAfrica, the program is customized to offer practical skills set coupled with training that enables our learners achieve goals in Online Marketing” said Ms Kilonzo.

Kagendo Mutegi, Digital Marketer at African Sport and Creative Institute attended a digital marketing course at Strathmore University and says the program impacted her professionally by advancing knowledge and skills.

“I personally want to venture into the entrepreneurship space, the Digital Marketing class was able to teach me how to brand myself, captivate my audience and the online business platform, the trainers were very insightful and absolutely captivating which even made me wish the course was longer” said Ms Mutegi.

Whereas mobile penetration and adoption of digital marketing practices by companies has been on the rise in the country, a shortage of well trained professionals in the sector has been evident over time.

To enroll for the Digital Marketing Masterclass at Strathmore University, kindly email rkilonzo@strathmore.edu or visit the website http://www.ilabafrica.ac.ke/index.php/digital-marketing/

Is your organization under cyber threat?

Posted on Updated on

Today’s world is highly characteristic of increased technology adoption and digital business innovations by many institutions. Despite the wide ranging benefits, these practices have been exposing institutions to new and emerging threats.

In today’s computerized world, new digital risks emerge every hour of every day, internet connections and networks opens up the possibility of hackers targeting organizations. Cybercrime is becoming a big business and cyber risks a focus of organizations and governments globally, monetary and reputational risks are high for organizations without an appropriate cybersecurity plan.

The year 2020 saw the world grapple with the Coronavirus pandemic with cybercriminals taking advantage of the situation to perfect their trade. As most people around the world started working from home, it became apparent that not all organizations have the infrastructure to provide security solutions in a remote working environment. 

Global cyber threats continue to evolve at a rapid pace just like technology with the number of data breaches raising every year. A report by RiskBased Security revealed that a shocking 7.9 billion records had been exposed by data breaches in the first nine months of 2020 alone, this figure being more than double (112%) the number of records exposed in the same period in 2019.

In Kenya, data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA, 2020), indicated that changes occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic had affected many workplaces with an increase in the use of modern technologies in the mitigation of the virus to enable remote working. Cyber criminals have been exposing vulnerable ICT systems for fraudulent gains. In the quarterly report for the period July-September 2020, there was a sharp rise in cyber threats with 35.1 million incidences being detected which represented a 152.9 per cent increase.

In a world increasingly driven by digital technologies and information, cyber threats management is becoming more than just a strategic imperative, It’s a fundamental part of doing business and running operations.

Tai SOC (Security Operations Centre) together with @iLabAfrica, BCK Kenya and ACPM IT,  held a webinar titled `Is your Organization safe under cyber threat’, a forum which brought together Information Technology and Cyber security experts, professionals for a joint session on best practices, trends and how best to handle cases of digital threats within organizations.

With the scale of cyber threats being projected to be on the rise globally and locally, a majority of speakers explained the importance of organizations investing in the right approaches for institutional networks and staff development to curb digital threats.

Dr. Humprey Njogu, ICT Policy Analyst, Cyber Security Researcher and Lecturer at Strathmore University pointed out that Kenya had made some strides in the fight against cyber-crimes by enacting laws and was experiencing a rapid increase in digital attacks due to its growing mobile penetration and digital economic models.

“As a country we have done well in some areas while in need improvements in other areas, despite the existence of a Computer Use and Cyber Crimes ACT 2018 and Data Protection Act 2019, cases of cyber threats have continued to rise. Data from Communications Authority indicates that the country receives an average 30 to 50 million attacks quarterly which underlines the importance of strong cyber security systems within organizations” said Mr. Njogu.

The University Lecturer inferred that small businesses were suffering losses in the current state of affairs because their low investments in IT security meant some of them take longer periods without getting to know that their systems are under attack.

Marton Miklos, Cyber Security expert and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at ACPM IT, Hungary highlighted that one of the reasons for the rapid increase in online threats was because many organizations have been investing in IT infrastructures with little investments on their protection which is equally important.

“Proper vulnerability assessments for networks and continuous monitoring of logs for incoming and outgoing data is one of the best ways companies can tell when sensitive data is leaving the system, technical investments in equipment and staff training creates organizational advantage by ensuring increased internal security of systems” said Mr. Miklos.

The cyber security expert further highlighted that most of the cyber-attacks are initiated by well trained professionals, urging companies to invest properly for the protection of their networks which are core to organizational operations.

“Phishing is a global threat from my experiences in Kenya and at SAP, cyber security is about people and technology, without empowering people leaves them as the weakest link for attacks to a company. From my experience, it takes more than 217 days to identify a breach which is majorly caused by social engineering” said Diana Waithanji, Digital Products Compliance at SAP, Germany.

According to Ms. Waithanji, for organizations to successfully tame cyber-attacks, there is need to create a trust based culture from within while also investing in staff training & awareness, continuous monitoring and system upgrades.

With cases of cyber-attacks and their sophistication on the rise, it is time companies matched by implementing top security systems while also adopting a dynamic approach of dealing with such cases to avert loss of financial and data resources.

@iLabAfrica through the Cyber Security Unit operates the TAI Security Operations Centre (TAI-SOC) in collaboration with TAI Security Operations Centre (TAI-SOC) is a cybersecurity consortium formed by a collaboration by @iLab Africa, BCK Kenya and ACPM IT.  The center offers cyber security services to businesses in fintech, insurance, health and government institutions that rely on technology in their operations by monitoring, detecting and responding to cyber-attacks in real time.