East Africa’s mobile innovation landscape may leverage factors in its favor such as global interest and attention, having thousands of new ICT graduates every year, increased penetration of mobile phones, improved international bandwidth, and supportive regulatory frameworks to become a global hub for mobile innovation. It is this effort that m:lab East Africa wishes to contribute to through its training program. The Lab intends to increase local human capacity to pursue mobile innovations by numbers and by depth of skills.
The Lab’s training on mobile applications development and related technologies is delivered through a short course program. The training program is designed to offer individuals who already have a software development background an opportunity to hone their skills with a mobile technologies focus. It is a program targeted at the thousands of graduates of ICT related degree programs from East African universities.
The training is undertaken at m:lab East Africa’s new facilities located at Bishop Magua Centre on Ngong road – one floor beneath iHub. The training facility has capacity for 25 students equipped with computers and high speed Internet connections. The Lab’s testing facility equipped with a wide range of mobile devices from various manufacturers is also accessible to the students.
Technologies covered in the training include USSD, android, J2me, php, mysql, LWUIT, Mobile Web , IVR, User Experience Design, SMS, Systems Design. Students also get to cover training on business for mobile. This is meant to improve their entrepreneurial skills and is complemented by short business incubation period before they graduate. The Lab expects that although some students may complete the course and go into relevant employment positions others will go into entrepreneurship with mobile innovations.
The current program is a full time daily course on all week days. The students get to interact with other developers and domain experts from different development sectors through events organized by m:lab East Africa and the iHub community.
First Wave Of Students
The first wave of students under m:lab East Africa’s training program started in March 2011. For this first lot of 20 students, tuition fee was fully subsidized through a grant from infoDev. Examples of achievements by the students include Fomobi – a start up company created by a group of students. Throughout the program all the students created a number of mobile applications, one of which was a PIVOT25 finalist. The students will be showcasing their applications in their graduation event scheduled for September 2011 (dates to be announced)
James Losikany, one of the graduating students is currently working on an application he calls “mavuno”. He is designing it to be “a mobile application that will help farmers and buyers communicate or connect directly without the intervention of the middle men who normally take advantage of the farmers”. He is also in the process of forming a new company, a vehicle to market and sell his innovative product.
According to James, m:lab East Africa “is the home that natures and brightens people in the world of technology and offers a great chance to (pursue) entrepreneurship in a world where mobile is the order of the day in any activity.”
Carolyne Kimani has also been in the same class as James. She holds a Bsc. Information Technology from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricult and Technology. Her current project is called Wedding links254. It is an application which aims to make planning for a wedding hustle free by linking you up with contacts of the product and service providers as well as a preview of the products they have and their prices.
According to Carolyne, “Learning to develop Mobile Applications on a variety of platforms and technologies: J2ME, Android, USSD, Mobile Web” was her benefit for attending the course. She adds, “I have learnt to not only develop (applications) but also be business-minded.” She also reckons that the training helped her to appreciate better the value of working with and interacting with many people in a team setting.
Phyllis Mutinda, another student due to graduate from the training holds a Bsc degree in Software Engineering from Kenyatta University. She is working on a hairstyle app on android that aims to help ladies makes decisions on what hairstyle to try out. She is thankful for the opportunity to go through the Lab’s subsidized training and says, “I have learnt to develop mobile applications in different platforms for instance j2me and android. I have also learnt about sms, ussd, ivr, user experience as well as some tips on how to run a business.”
Tecular Limited is a new company formed by classmates Phyllis, Carolyne and another friend. One of the company’s undertakings is a schools application that is meant to improve communication between teachers, guardians, and students. The app is meant to notify parents whenever their child is absent from school, as well as get report forms, and important term dates without having without having the student as the middle man. Phyllis and her friends believe that this will help guardians monitor their children’s progress in school and take necessary measures in case of misconduct.
Second Wave of Students – Call for Applications Open!
A new lot of 25 students is expected to join the training in September 2011. The 4 month training worth over Sh 100,000 per student is subsidized by The Lab’s infoDev grant. A commitment fee of Shs 10,000 will be required from successful candidates and 5,000 of the fee will be refundable depending on attendance and course performance. The online application process opened on 18th August 2011 and closes on 28th August 2011.