Team of Innovators Unveiled to Spur Home Grown Solutions

Ms. Mbaka gives her remarks. Looking on is Dr. Getao (right) and Director University Education, Ministry of Education, Mr. Darius Magoka

JKUAT students, alumni and staff have joined the Design and Development of a Digital Computing Device for Learners team unveiled today by the ICT Authority (ICTA), October 7, 2020.

Dr. Kibet Langat (Director JKUAT Industrial Park), Gilbert Ng’eno (Mechanical Engineering – Masters), Michael Mumo (Mechatronic Engineering 2019 graduate), Fredrick Kisavi Mbai (Business Computing 2019 graduate), and Purity Muthoni Njeru (Environmental Health – IEET) join a team of 30 innovators and researchers mandated with researching and designing a digital computing device which is affordable and fit for learning purposes.

The design and development process is expected to run for a period of 30 days with the team working together to design different parts of the device which will be piloted in primary schools upon completion.

While unveiling the team, the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Ms. Maureen Mbaka said the government is committed to equipping learners with ICT skills which they need to become innovators and adapt to the future of work.

“This is in line with sustainable development goal number 4 that seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote learning opportunities for all,” said Ms. Mbaka who was representing her Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Joe Mucheru.

Prof. Kinyua addresses the audience

While appreciating the initiative of locally designing and developing a digital device and the role the academia is playing, the CAS said, “The digital assembly plants both at JKUAT and Moi University have successfully assembled devices, thus supporting a vital government programme and showcasing that Kenya has local capacity to meet a large demand for digital devices used for teaching and learning, critical now considering how COVID-19 has affected the education sector with students being forced to learn online.”

She encouraged the team to give it their all saying, the entire country was looking up to them to design and prototype an affordable learning device for the Kenyan market targeting low-income households.

On her part, Chief Executive Officer, ICTA, Dr. Katherine Getao acknowledged the milestone of the Digital Learning Programme and said it was the opportune time to venture into the design and development of a digital device.

“We appreciate the local resources we have in our academic and national institutions in solving local challenges hence providing homegrown solutions and products,” said Dr. Getao.

Dr. Getao said the Authority delved into the project as a response to the changing education sector with the emergence of the COVID -19 pandemic.

“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, we realised there is a need to provide every child with a ‘fit for purpose’ computing device to enable learning beyond the traditional school classroom setup,” attested Dr. Getao.

She further said it was on that basis that ICTA together with other agencies in the digital literacy programme technical implementing committee partnered with the academia to constitute a design and development team for an affordable, robust and educationally appropriate device for users.

Purity (far right) joins her fellow innovators for a commemorative group photo after the unveiling of the team

“I expect great results and to be overjoyed in the next 30 days through this collaboration of institutions so that we surpass our individual abilities,” said Dr. Getao.

Representing the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. Robert Kinyua appreciated ICTA on the confidence they had accorded institutions of higher learning.

“Our universities have a pool of innovative and brilliant minds with the capacity and potential of delivering solutions and products to the challenges facing the country. All we need is support and joint collaborative approach from the government and private sector in addressing our problems,” said, Prof. Kinyua.

Dr, Kibet who joins a team of experts mandated to steer the innovators through the process, expressed confidence towards the ability of the innovators to deliver on the project.

“These group of young innovators have the opportunity, knowledge, skills and means needed to design and develop the digital device in the stipulated time,” said Dr. Kibet giving reference to the four innovators from JKUAT.

Purity said it was humbling to be part of the team of innovators. The chance, she attests will provide her with an excellent learning opportunity as she interacts with fellow innovators.

“E-waste generation is a major concern globally. Being part of this team as an environmentalist, I will innovatively look at ways of developing a more environmentally friendly device,” said Purity.

Michael, on his part, said the project gives him an opportunity to implement the knowledge gained in class in a way that creates value to the community. Passionate about innovation, he is certain that with the timelines given, the project will give the team a substantial challenge worth investing their time and effort.

Michael (left) and Gabriel ready for the challenge

Captivated by how the digital learning programme was implemented, Gilbert said he was elated to be part of the project that morphed from the digital learning programme. “It is fascinating to be aware that I am involved in a project of its kind in Kenya that will completely revolutionise the education sector as we know it.”

The project brings together academia and national institutions including JKUAT, Moi University, Kenyatta University, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Education, ICTA, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Teachers Service Commission, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and Communications Authority among others.

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