In what has become a tradition of Strathmore University, last week the institution’s Faculty of Information Technology organised an ICT conference, giving students a chance to experience life on the inside, not just the periphery.

This year’s two-day conference was the 10th annual event in a row that brought together stakeholders from educational and industrial sectors with the aim of reflecting on how to transfer, diffuse and adopt the Information and Communication Technologies within various fields.

The theme of the conference was apt; ICT and innovations: Opportunities and challenges towards an entrepreneurial economy. Speakers’ included company leaders, industrial experts and stakeholders from the private sector who discussed with students their experiences as a way of motivating them.

The meeting was “interdisciplinary, attracting speakers from varied backgrounds such as education, health, law, media and governance,” said Strathmore University’s communication officer Eric Kathenya.

Other topics included e-learning, assessment of security of ICT systems, contribution of mobile technologies towards realisation of the Vision 2030 goals, e-census and application of GIS in health.

It was not limited to Strathmore University students alone. “This year’s conference was well spread with students coming from various universities including Multi-Media University, Jomo Kenyatta University, USIU and host Strathmore,” said Mr Kathenya.

The forum provided a professional environment for ICT experts and students to exchange ideas and how to access new technologies that will help speed up the sector’s development. The running theme encouraged students and players to take advantage of the current economic crisis affecting the world.

What can businesses achieve through innovation? The forum was told of the need to use technologies such as the fibre optic cable to stimulate ideas that can enable all of us to be more efficient, effective and help lower production costs.

But it was the presentation by Mr Kai Wulf, the CEO of Kenya Data Network that stood out. He challenged students to promote local content development as opposed to always being consumers of Western developed products.

Lack of content relevant to the needs of local communities in developing countries is now one of the main criticisms levelled against ICT awareness, literacy and expertise. Without this, it is unlikely, if not impossible, that benefits of the sector will be realised.

For example, in a recent study conducted to find out if African governments are contributing to bridge the content divide through their websites, only 10 per cent of the sites had information resources relevant to their citizens.

As higher learning institutions, universities are then challenged to take a leading role in advocating for the development of local content that suits the home communities’ needs.

Another presentation titled; Development of e-census system: case study of Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, demonstrated how use of ICT can eliminate some of the problems that the census team faced in the just-concluded exercise.

Internet enabled

The paper presented by two staff of Strathmore University, Mr Stanley Githinji and Dr Cyrus Wekesa, explained how their innovation could help the country gradually shift from printed questionnaires to internet enabled hand-held GPS units.

They demonstrated a model which ensures that data on population is updated regularly by integrating with birth and death registration systems.

They said, “e-census system provides and disseminates accurate demographic data at all times hence the government will not wait for 10 years to know the actual population of the country”. All in all, other institutions of higher learning need to identify opportunities that will open their students to industry experiences.

The writer is a monitoring and evaluation specialist: email-