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SAFARICOM HOSTS HACKATHON COMPETITION IN STRATHMORE

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Strathmore University this week hosted Safaricom PLC hackathon competition that had up to 240 participants. The event aimed at fostering solutions around Android Developer, Solution Architects, Big Data Engineer among others.

The Safaricom funded program, co-implemented by @iLabAfrica was an open book competition used to identify technical practical competencies. For this event, the standard pass mark was 75% which was earned after a practical test was done, the examined interrogated and given the chance to modify their work. Those who were Successful received an oral interview invitation where they would be recruited to work for Safaricom in the IT department, their employment level being determined by their total score in both the hackathon and the oral interview.

According to Peter Opiyo, the IT Workforce, Performance and Reporting Manager in the Digital IT Department – Technology Division at Safaricom, theoretical interviews do not always yield desired output and so there is need to explore various technical skills through exhibited practical sessions – hackathons.

“Because of the high demand of techies at Safaricom and the IT market at large, there’s need to recruit the best in practice. Most of the best developer employees we have here in the IT department are those hired from hackathons.” said Peter.

Call for participants was issued out through the Safaricom career portal, website and social media platforms.

Strathmore hosts 4th Edition of Nairobi Tech Week (NTW 2019).

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@iBizAfrica, Strathmore University once again hosted this year’s 4th edition of Nairobi Tech Week (NTW) a Moringa School based initiative to bringing all actors and influencers in the tech ecosystem under one roof to foster conversations and learning around technology related topics.

This year’s event was themed, “​Technology in Africa: The Past, The Present and The Future”. It delved into the evolution of technology in Africa, the various solutions being applied in the African context and the exciting opportunities yet to be capitalized on as we navigate the digital revolution.

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Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica and @iBizAfrica giving the opening remarks for the NTW 2019

The 2019 NTW event included a number of activities ranging from; workshops, panels, roundtables, research presentation sessions as well as the hackathon which brought together players in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Platforms, Internet of Things (IoT), Micro services, Technopreneurship, Data Science, and Product Development Tools.

 

Google workshop on Google essentials and Machine Learning led by Marvin Ngesa.

The panels consisted of experts from the tech industry, the government as well as NGO’s shared ideas and solutions towards improving the existing structures in the growing field of technology by filling the gaps left by the current players.

Lease me was one of the teams from Strathmore University that participated in the hackathon competitions and emerged the best.

Lease Me, offered a solution to help aspiring farmers with no land to conduct agriculture by leasing out arable pieces of land and capital, thereby enhancing food security.

Talking at the event, the Principal Secretary of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority(TVET) Dr. Kevit Desai indicated the government’s commitment to supporting technology in Kenya as a backbone to the achievement of the big four agenda.

Sponsors Sponsors for 2019 NTW included GIZ – Make IT Africa, Microsoft, JUMO, Github, Google, Andela, Humanitec, Tala.

The main partners for Nairobi Tech Week 2019 are Strathmore, @iLab Africa, @iBizAfrica, AngelHack, Twiga Foods, Africa’s Talking, Nairobi Innovation Week, iHub, ALX, Metta, Nailab, Lawyers Hub, and the official transport partner – Little Cab.

Communications Authority of Kenya partners with @iLabAfrica

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Strathmore University, through its ICT and Innovation Centre, @iLabAfrica, has partnered with the Communications Authority of Kenya (The Authority) to carry out research in spectrum innovation through Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) techniques and Cybersecurity. The MoU signed between the two institutions is meant to achieve a number of objectives which include the following:

  1. To research and develop policies on the evolving innovation on the spectrum.
  2. To research and formulate the implementation model for the use of TV White Spaces which is one of the most promising spectrum concepts to achieve last mile connectivity.
  3. To research on the implementation and adoption of 5G and the accompanying technical and regulatory frameworks.
  4. To jointly develop capacity on spectrum management skills
  5. To research and build capacity in the domain of Cybersecurity through collaborative technical development, information sharing and technical assistance.

This partnership comes at a time when Strathmore University has already joined a set of three other African Universities’ which include Copperbelt University of Zambia, University of Malawi (Malawi) and the University of Ghana in a collaboratively funded project by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) of the United Kingdom with the project being spearhead by the University of Strathclyde, located in Glasgow, Scotland. The project’s main aim is to investigate how the use of dynamic spectrum access techniques and geo-location database technology combined with software defined radio (SDR) implementations can be used to enable effective and efficient wireless networks built at scale in developing countries in order to support affordable Internet using the shared spectrum resource.

The official launch of the work plan between the Communications Authority of Kenya and Strathmore University took place on the 3rd of January 2019 at the Communications Authority offices drawing an open roadmap of collaboration among local researchers working on the spectrum innovation techniques to join in on the work led by Strathmore University in achievement of the last mile connectivity through Dynamic Spectrum Access which is meant to clearly elucidate informative results on the regulatory framework, technical implementations and business models that can be adopted in the implementations of TV White Spaces and 5G. The Authority set out a strategic agenda to: develop professional partnerships with research institutions, build adequate capacity on Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum technology and policy research, issue trial authorisations for scientific research, conduct actual measurements and perform analysis, participate in regional and international RF spectrum research meetings, review national spectrum policy to address emerging radio technologies and develop guidelines and regulations to allow policy formulation. The current ongoing workplan is the initial desktop survey of regulatory status of TV White Spaces regionally and internationally as other plans are put in place for the three-year partnership.

@iLabAfrica Hosts the MIT Open Mic Africa Summit

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Hosted by Strathmore University, @ilabAfrica this year hosted the MIT Open Mic Africa Summit, is an annual summit that celebrates the goals championed by the Legatum center in MIT alongside the Mastercard Foundation.

The peak of the summit is the award of the Zambezi prize, an annual prize for two hundred thousand dollars in in cash prizes and a chance to attend an entrepreneurial boot camp hosted in MIT. The prize is awarded to an entrepreneurial venture that incorporates financial inclusion through both financial technology but also creates social change. Megan Mitchell, who appeared on behalf of the Legatum center emphasised that the end product of the venture had to be impactful on the society. Over 500 applications were received for the Zambezi prize and in narrowing down the applicants, certain criteria, as explained by Ashley Onyango, the program manager for the Mastercard Foundation had to be met. This included the combination of problem solving with economic growth in Africa, providing accessible, affordable financial inclusion to the unemployed and underemployed, and assisting in lifting people out of poverty. The boot camp, a part of the prize, is instrumental in shaping the leadership and entrepreneurial skills of the prize winner as well as enable them to create a network to better scale their venture.

This year’s event was marked with vison talks, short pitches and of course, the promotion of the ten finalists in the running for the Zambezi prize and its award, at the conclusion of the event.

The vision talks focused on entrepreneurs that discussed not only their successes, but also their losses and the lessons that stemmed from them. Rachel Balshan, the Deputy CEO of MFS Africa, detailed her experience in building the company and learning how to make decisions that better shaped the future of MFS Africa and led them more clearly to their goals.

In addition, up and coming entrepreneurs were given a chance to pitch their ideas for ninety seconds, enabling them to get a platform and potential connections to drive their entrepreneurial ventures.

The finalists of the prize included agricultural ventures that targeted smallholders and enabled them to access services such as investment capital, access to small loans and micro finance, real time agricultural education, access to household goods for women and the opportunity to infuse waste collection with a redeemable point system.

The winner of the prize was WALA, a venture set up to bring digital banking to underbanked consumers in Africa using a combination of cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence.

In all, the summit exemplified the overarching goals of the prize and spurred discussion about how to create innovative, financially inclusive technology that will spur the growth of smallholders in Africa.

Smarter Transportation solutions for African cities

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@ilabAfrica was this week pleased to host Professor Tierra Bills an Assistant Professor and Michigan Society Fellow in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Bills was visiting to give a lecture on, An Electronic Travel Data Collection Tool for Nairobi Kenya with the ultimate goal of designing Smarter Transportation solutions for rapidly developing African cities.

Like many other African cities, Nairobi is now grappling with the challenges of rapid urbanization. Kenya’s population has increased by 55% over the last decade, and this combined with significant rural-to-urban migration in Kenya has resulted in critical stress on Nairobi’s limited transportation infrastructure.

To mitigate these transportation issues, Nairobi County Government had proposed a plan for (formalized) mass public transportation across the region. The challenge is the lack of adequate transportation data for investigating travel preferences of Nairobi travelers.

For Nairobi, there is currently no on-going data collection system or periodic program effort to investigate the activity-based travel behaviors of Nairobi residents. This can significantly constrain the ability Nairobi transportation planners to investigate (via scenario analysis and forecasting) transportation solutions that will address Nairobi’s multimodal transportation needs.

To gather enough data Dr. Bills is working with a team of Kenyan students (software development and computer science) to design, prototype, and test an electronic and multi-source travel data collection tool.

The preliminary data collected with this tool will be used to refine the data collection tool for future region-wide travel studies in Nairobi, Kenya. Further, this tool would be a significant contribution to researchers and planners interested in implementing data-driven transportation policies and traffic solutions in African as well as other developing cities. Given that such a transportation data collection tool has not been developed for Kenya before, there are many interesting research questions involved with this project.

This project will require students focusing on the following areas: • SMS frontend application • Android front end application among others.

The data collected from such initiatives would be used to estimate (the first) activity based travel demand model for the Nairobi region. In addition to generating a dataset for these modeling purposes, a parallel objective would be to distill a general framework for delivering reliable travel survey data using a hybrid of electronic data collection sources. This hybrid approach could then be replicated for other African and developing cities.

Professor Tierra Bills Bio is working on the project in collaboration for Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica – Strathmore University.

Dr. Tierra Bills. Dr. Bills is an Assistant Professor and Michigan Society Fellow in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan. She has recently joined the department (in Fall 2016) after spending 3 years as a Research Scientist at IBM Research Africa. While in Kenya, Dr. Bills also lectured at Strathmore University’s iLabAfrica and taught MTI 8203 Research Methodology for Application Development. Much of Dr. Bills’ research focuses on investigating the social impacts of transportation projects.

For more information write to john on jolukuru@strathmore.edu

 

 

Nairobi Tech Week

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Nairobi Tech Week is Back!

iBizAfrica together with Moringa School is excited to host the 3rd Edition of Nairobi Tech Week, Sub Saharan Africa’s largest tech event, whose aim is to bring all actors and influencers in the tech ecosystem in one space, fostering conversations and learning around various relevant technology-related topics.

The event will be taking place from Thursday 19th April to Saturday 21st April 2018 at iBizAfrica, Strathmore University. This year’s theme will be “The Role of Technology in Problem Solving for Africa’s Future.”

Nairobi Tech Week presents a 3-day event packed with panel discussions, workshops and a hackathon with incredible prizes to be won.

“Our aim is to launch a community-driven tech event focused on developers, thought leaders within the tech space as well as the best innovations in Sub Saharan Africa” says Sandra Mukidza, NTW’s main event organiser.

 

For the first time, Nairobi Tech Week will host Nairobi Tech week Awards, in a bid to recognise companies playing influential roles and driving impact within Silicon Savannah.

​The title sponsor this year is Microsoft , other sponsors include Visa, Facebook, Safaricom JUMO, Github, Liquid Telecom, Google and iBiz Africa-Strathmore University.

 

Several key organisations have come forward to partner with Nairobi Tech Week; iHub, Africa’s Talking, Swahili Box, AngelHack, M-Power, CBO and Metta. In previous years Nairobi Tech Week has had global title sponsors like Facebook and Twitter

 

Applications for Nairobi Tech Week opened on March 19th 2018 as well as nominations for the Tech Week Awards.

Apply for your ticket to this years Nairobi Tech Week 2018 here and also place your Tech Week Awards nomination here.

For more information contact Bernard on bchiira@strathmore.edu

Autism Tech participants offered internship at Safaricom

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Two participants who graduated from the Autism tech programme in November last year have been given an internship opportunity at Safaricom.

The participants who graduated from the Autism tech training which runs for 4 months and trains students on IT and other computer/web packages will be joining the Safaricom team in April.

The participants Arnold Kanywuiro and Eric Thongori, were picked by Safaricom kenya which has a diversity and inclusion program which aims to employ people with disabilities. Their program mainly included people with physical disabilities but is now expanding to employ and offer internships even to those with learning disabilities such as Autism.

“When Safaricom heard about the @iLabAfrica Autism Tech Training program, Safaricom was interested in hiring participants for a 3-month internship program that will see them showcase their skills in the IT department dealing with Software testing among other roles.” Said Irene Gitangu the program manager of Autism Tech @iLabAfrica.

When asked about his view on the internship at Safaricom Arnold Kanywuiro had this to say. “It would be an honor for me to work with Safaricom because it was a dream for me to experience and to learn the activities the company has to offer. Safaricom is not only known in Kenya but also it is known globally and it is the best company in Africa. The technology they are using M-pesa one can be able to do money transaction. A Person can also save in his/her M-pesa account. The company was previously ran by Michael Joseph and now it is at the able hands of Bob Collymore. Safaricom is the company with many opportunities that one cannot afford to miss them but to be excited to learn them and become better. Safaricom is my dream company and it is the company that can build a great future for all Kenyans.”

Project Autism Tech was conceived in November 2015 as a possible means to addressing the problem of unemployment amongst capable individuals in the Autism Spectrum within the field of software testing. This specific area was selected because it is a model that has been successfully proven in all continents of the world except in Africa.

@iLabAfrica Research Centre in Strathmore University, was selected by the Project pioneer to partner in the execution of the pilot project. This project has seen the participants grow in the Field of IT and has helped them build their confidence in the delivery of their projects and overall as students

The project sought to create an environment whereby individuals on the Autism Spectrum could be trained and get employment on the basis of their areas of strength. Software Testing & Quality assurance is one such area where people with Autism have been known to excel and thus the project was borne.

Reports show that Autism affects an estimated 70 million people and is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the world, with a startling growth rate of around 57% since 2002. About 80% of affected people live in developing countries where knowledge and resources are scarce, with very few opportunities even for diagnosis, much less for management and treatment.

Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than neuro-typical workers do such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. In all the other continents, except Africa, people with Autism have been gainfully employed especially in IT.

The project has a long-term goal of creating a social enterprise that would provide sustainable employment to qualified individuals on the Autism Spectrum as well as those with other learning disabilities.

For more information on the program contact Irene on igitangu@strathmore.edu