The masterclass attended by East African Startups founders was facilitated by Oswald Jumira, Group Head of Innovation Partnerships at the Liquid Telecommunications Group, and Mutembei Kariuki, GIZ Regional Coordinator of Make-IT in East Africa.
The full-day session, designed to equip specialists from East African startups, NGOs and larger companies with core skills and tools in data science, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, drew on multiple speakers and experts.
Jessica Colaço of Brave Venture Labs outlined the demand for data scientists and data analysts that is being driven by evolving technology.
Dr Isaac Rutenburg, the Director of the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, Kenya, presented to the group on intellectual property and data protection regulations.
The class also covered specific sectoral applications, with Louis Graham from Busara Centre and Eunice Maina from Bismart Insurance looking at applications in the financial and insurance sectors.
In open discussions, many of the young technical entrepreneurs raised the need for opportunities and support from big IT players such as Liquid Telecom and IBM in hosting and developing applications. In IoT, a major challenge, said some, was the high cost of assembling and running sensors, which was limiting the development of IoT applications in the country.
However, Liquid Telecom in partnership with Sigfox has since announced the launch of a nationwide Internet of Things (IoT) network that will cover up to 85% of the Kenyan population based on ultra-low-cost sensor technology. The new IoT network will be used to connect sensors across all sectors including agriculture, transport and logistics, smart cities projects and in wildlife conservation.
Liquid Telecom is focusing on a partnership with iLabs from Strathmore University to further support the development of IoT in East Africa.
In the masterclass, Oswald Jumira outlined the Liquid Telecom cloud platforms that can now help developers and startups, including Microsoft Azure, which provides a choice of Microsoft specific and third-party software and systems that offer developers flexible tools and frameworks, and supports multiple programming languages.
Liquid Telecom is also now offering Azure Stack, a hybrid cloud platform with a subset of Azure services that are ideal for software and systems developers, especially those working with IoT applications and are required to host data locally.
The message from Liquid Telcom to young developers was that the company now offers a perfect environment through its cloud platforms to help them extend their infrastructure, add new cloud capabilities to existing assets, or develop new applications. Liquid is focusing on upskilling the developers and startups on the new digital technologies through online courses.
Liquid Telecom’s cloud also offers collaboration tools, including Microsoft Office 365 and Unified Communications, which mean application developers are able to work as a team from anywhere, with additional flexibility for complex projects such as IoT and AI, said Oswald.
On their interaction with the East African startups, IBM also presented its initiatives to support upcoming data scientists and analysts, explaining its D-NA program, which is helping address the skills gaps in Africa by bringing digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support the 21st century’s workforce in Africa, and aligning with the Kenyan government’s national agenda.
The program includes a free “Lite” IBM Cloud account that never expires allowing quick and easy access to more than 170 APIs, which allow the creation of applications by accessing the features or data of an operating system, application, or another service. It also spans services to help users build cloud applications rapidly.
As they progress through the online courses, students can earn IBM digital badges: for those new to technology, as Explorers, for those expanding their technical skills, as Innovators, and for non-technical people learning new ICT skills, as New Collar.
IBM is offering a growing catalogue of online courses under the program, giving step-by-step tutorials in building Blockchains, creating an AI Chatbot, using data science to answer common business questions, and in applying design thinking to IoT projects in order to find a market and build what it needs, rather than building something and then trying to find a market.
D-NA also includes an AI-powered advisor that analyses user’s skills gaps and suggests multiple learning paths to help them align their skills to the market’s job requirements. It can also help them find jobs with an AI-powered search linked to partners such as jobs service Brighter Monday.
To enter the program, developers need to register on the website: www.digitalnationafrica.com, which can only be accessed from within Africa.
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