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Nokia partners with Kenya university

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – Nokia Research Centre (NRC) Africa has partnered with the University of Nairobi to set up a modern software research and sub-contracting laboratory.

The multi-disciplinary laboratory, to be based at the university’s School of Computing and Informatics at the Chiromo Campus off Riverside Drive, will enable the university to undertake sub-contracting work and training on project management on ICT issues.

Already, 16 work stations have been established within the university with support from Nokia. They will be used for software development by the university community, including students and the local software development community. In addition, a User Experience (UX) unit has also been set up alongside the labs to undertake research in this area.

And apart from developing project management and sub-contracting skills, the lab will give students a real life work experience and ultimately promote multi- disciplinary research within the institution.

The launch of the laboratory comes in the wake of major developments in the ICT sector in the country, with an increase in mobile phone and internet penetration, increased awareness and access to software products all buttressed by the arrival of the submarine fibre optic cables.

This partnership comes at a time of great digital promise to the country, with the government announcing it’s commitment to building crucial internet and digital infrastructure to enable access to faster, efficient, and affordable connections to Kenyans.

“This ground breaking project comes at a time of great digital promise in Kenya and in the region. Nokia Research Africa will continue to partner with the universities to offer viable solutions to local ICT challenges and to increase access to mobility,” said Ms Mokeira Masita-Mwangi, a Sociologist with NRC- Africa.

Ms Masita-Mwangi said Nokia would support local developers and innovators to come up with locally relevant ICT solutions meant to uplift the standards of living of the people, adding that communication was a key plank in empowering the young population in Africa, whilst contributing a lot to the Gross Domestic product of the government

In early 2006, MIT and Nokia launched a trial initiative called EPROM in East Africa to develop a mobile phone programming curriculum that equips computer science students with the skills to design mobile phone applications specifically for the needs of people in the developing world.

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While starting originally at the University of Nairobi, the EPROM faculty expanded to 12 Computer Science departments across Sub-Saharan Africa. Some universities are incorporating the EPROM curriculum into new Masters degree programs, while others are focusing these materials on their incoming undergraduate computer science students. This continued growth has led to hundreds of mobile phone applications developed specifically for the African market.  

Several of these student projects have gathered international media attention, while others are being formed into start-up ventures based in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Kigali and beyond.

Dr  Peter Wagacha –The Team Leader, University of Nairobi, School of Computing and Informatics said: “Kenya is on the precipice of an ICT revolution, with rapid mobile telephony growth and the innumerable opportunities offered by the arrival of the fibre optic cable. Research institutions need to position themselves to reap from this opportunity,”

He said the partnership between the University of Nairobi, a training and research institution, and Nokia, a global telecommunications leader, had come in at the opportune time when major developments in ICT were taking place in the country and the region.

Dr Wagacha said the two institutions had developed a flexible training programme on project management and sub-contracting, targeting ICT practitioners and ICT professionals.  
He said the new computer lab would come in hardy for the large pool of computer science and IT graduates, IT practitioners and professionals in the country who lacked access to well equipped laboratories to do research work.

“The challenge is for software developers to come up with locally relevant solutions given that there is a large market for innovative software products”

Dr Wagacha said local developers were startups that are better placed and equipped to fully respond to the needs of the multitude of cultures and localities in Africa.  

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