Every time you walk into the right wing of Technology House, fourth floor at the ICT Directorate, there’s a 90% chance that you’ll find an intensive training going on at the ICT Common Lab. The remaining 10% accounts for the time you’ll find the trainees and trainers either out for lunch or are taking a breather. This is what characterizes the mandate that the Research, Consultancy and Training Department (RCT) has to execute every single day.
On a chilly Saturday morning of the 14th October, 2017, a group of 16 students are busy at the ICT Common Lab. The language spoken is fiber optic, and the trainer, Mr. Moses Kimani has his hands full. There’s a group being shown how to use an OTDR machine, what I would later learn to mean Optical Time Domain Reflectometer, which is used to test the integrity of fiber optic cables. Another group, in another corner, are having a go at fusion splicers, getting acquainted with all matters cable terminations and the precautions that accompany the same.
Ms. Phyllis Ngigi from the Research, Consultancy and Training Department (RCT) is in charge of this particular training. She asserts that the significance of fiber optic training cannot be overemphasized. “Whether it’s power transmission, illumination, sensing, communication through voice, data and video transmission, the applications of fiber optic are numerous….”, she opines. It is this multi-disciplinary significance of Fiber Optics that instigated the Department into organizing, for the second time, a training on the same. But that’s not all. The Department does much more than that.
I sat down with the Head of the RCT Department, Mr. Albert Kibe, to further illuminate on the significant role the Department plays in the University. His answer was simple; Research. Consultancy. Training.
“On matters Consultancy, the Department has just recently won a 15 million worth of a consultancy tender with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). The commission had advertised for someone to come up with a system that would automate their processes for maximum efficiency. The Department came up with a tender document, went through an open bid and won the contract,” explains Mr. Kibe.
The Department, in cooperation with other departments in the Directorate, has since gotten down to executing the same.
One other major role the Department plays is training, which Mr. Kibe puts into two main categories; paid trainings and free trainings. “Paid trainings are professional trainings whereby we engage professional trainers from the industry who have to be paid for their time. This necessitates the subsidized fees we charge. We also have free trainings like the recently held iTax and eCitizen training, which we do in collaboration with our partners from the respective government agencies.”
Some of the trainings the Department has particularly majored on include the Fiber Optics training, Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Big Data Analytics, Web Development, Cloud Computing, IBM training, Python Programming, Structured Query Language (SQL), among many others. All the trainings culminate into professional certifications by the University or industry partners. The end goal? Increasing literacy levels for staff, students and the surrounding community as a whole.
The Department also engages in research activities, with the latest efforts exhibited by a research grant Mr. Kibe won with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project, titled, ‘Spurring SMEs through Unlocking the Potential of Open Data in Kenya’, is aimed at benefitting the society through various economic ventures. “Once this is done, I want to come up with a multi-platform application to enable SMEs upload their data and expand their business base,” adds Mr. Kibe.
Beyond the training, the consultancy and the trainings carried out by the Department, Mr. Kibe credits the milestones they have accomplished this far on team work within the Department. “Ever since becoming a manager, I have learnt that people have different strengths and weaknesses. Understanding and harnessing these different strengths from various team members has been the key to fulfilling our Department’s goals,” he adds.
Going forward, the Department plans to review and refine their policies to be in line with the strategic objectives of the University. Conducting industry-based trainings remain at the epicenter of their existence, with an intent of making a lasting impact on both staff, students and the society in general.