IBM prepares Kenyan application developers for cloud revolution

IBM experts have completed intensive training for 50 Kenyan students and software developers looking to enhance their technical and entrepreneurial skills. The IBM team also developed plans to stimulate female entrepreneurship, improve agribusiness, and develop the workforce through internships for university students. 

Drawn from 13 countries, the 15 IBM specialists comprised the eighth IBM Corporate Service Corps team since 2010 to spend one month providing assistance in Kenya.  This pro bono, problem solving IBM initiative assists government, educational institutions, small businesses, and not for-profit trade and social service organizations throughout emerging markets. 

During an intensive two-week period, IBM team members led training sessions at Strathmore University’s iLab Africa that provided in-depth instruction on the latest software application development, project management, product development and commercialization skills.  The sessions supported Kenya's goals to enhance youth employment as part of the county's Vision 2030 development plan, and complimented the mission of IBM's Africa Skills Initiative which helps cultivate skills on the African continent. 

Some sessions at Strathmore University's iLab Africa focused on critical technologies such as cloud, big data analytics, and mobile computing. To hone their expertise in building applications delivered through the digital cloud -- a secure, convenient and cost effective way for consumers, citizens and businesses to share information, analyze big data and perform transactions -- students received training on IBM's Bluemix.  Bluemix is an online environment where software developers can quickly create, integrate and deploy applications and services delivered through the digital cloud. 

Participants used Bluemix to develop applications accessible from mobile devices that address real-life African grand challenges pertaining to agriculture, security, micro-finance and traffic.  Students also learned how to program for the Internet of Things -- an approach to automating physical or virtual devices that relies upon intelligent sensors and analytics to anticipate or respond to changing demands in the real world. 

“During the two-week training, I interacted with top IBM developers who helped me refine my ideas, focus my creativity and the effectiveness of team work in software development,” said Kennedy Wekesa of DevApp, Code-athon winning team. “In a matter of minutes I was able to deploy my first application on Bluemix even though it was my first time to use it." 

The training culminated in an BM team-led Code-athon challenge at Strathmore University’s ILab aimed at applying technology to improve security in Kenya. The apps were evaluated by Safaricom, university faculty and IBM executives. 

“I was struck by the enthusiasm, capacity, speed and motivation of the participants to learn and within a few hours, they all had viable ideas and prototype mobile applications," said IBM general Manager for East Africa, Nicholas Nesbitt. “Kenya has numerous talent and the private sector has the responsibility to support the government in harnessing it to create new employment opportunities and create space for youth to help grow the economy.” 

In support of the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE), IBM experts also helped develop a national internship framework targeting Kenyan university graduates aimed at preparing youth for skilled employment. The plan improves coordination between universities, employers and students. Recommendations included the creation of comprehensive and highly structured internship cycle with guidance on roles and considerations before, during and after internships.  Stakeholders would collaborate and access information on a centralized Web site. 

On another project, the IBM team elaborated a plan for the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) to further female entrepreneurship through loans and improved links with industry. The team recommended ways of enhancing the collection and reporting of data to track loans. Existing e-commerce platforms such as OLX could enable women to bring their products and services to market. 

Finally, the IBM specialists also worked with the Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KAAA) to suggest better coordination and improve food safety throughout the supply chains of the rice and dairy agriculture. 

IBM's Corporate Service Corps regularly dispatches teams of some of IBM's most talented employees to provide pro bono counsel to countries grappling with issues that intersect business, technology, and society.   Participating IBM employees offer skills in technology, scientific research, marketing, finance, human resources, law, and economic development.  By the end 2014, IBM Corporate Service Corps will have dispatched approximately 3,000 IBM employees originating from 56 countries on engagements to 37 countries -- making this pro bono problem solving program one of the world's largest. Its work has positively impacted the lives of more than 140,000 people around the world.   

Africa, a growing market for IBM, is one of the focal points of the program. By the end of 2014, the CSC will have deployed 800 IBM employees for projects in South Africa, Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt. 

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