Lift256 Tech academy is Uganda’s new Tech academy that is offering an Accelerated Learning Certificate (ALC) in Software Development. Lift256 Tech Academy is a collaboration between Clarke International University, Laboremus Uganda and Fontes Foundation. The collaboration is supported by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). Microsoft App Factory Program provides technical support.

The ALC program is an initiative aimed at equipping Ugandan graduates with world-class skills in software development. Running in a rigorous boot camp format, the program will be delivered over a period of 12 Weeks, Full-Time, offering both non-technical and technical skilling that will influence three core spheres namely; Mindset, Skill set and Tool set.

The ALC program has evolved from 3 years of re-engineering the Applied ICTs and Leadership (PostCert.AIL) Program, an initiative that was championed by Clarke International University, CM 2000, YWAM and supported by the Microsoft Apps Factory. The program was geared towards bridging the digital divide within the different sectors such as; Agriculture, Health, Education, Military etc. in Uganda and the region at large.

Our conviction has always been that ICT integration should be a minimum requirement in the different service verticals across the world. The ICT sector in Uganda is growing and as such the desire for the qualified workforce is bigger than ever before.

The motivation for the Program

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is increasingly having a pervasive role and presence in the various systems as it continues to shape all aspects of our lives. Numerous reform projects have been in place aiming to infuse ICT across various systems; education, health, agriculture etc. For instance; teachers are widely believed to be the key agents of any educational change! Accordingly, the Jordanian Ministry of Education adopted several ICT training courses aiming to prepare teachers to integrate ICT effectively across the curriculum.

According to Uganda Communications Communication statistics, over 60% of Ugandans have access to mobile phones, with an estimate of 11 million internet users. Ugandans are beginning to discover and learn that there are more uses of the phone than basic call and messaging functions. The demand for relevant applications is growing by the day from both the individuals and organizations. In addition, the environment is right and it’s time to become relevant in this part of the world.

The Ugandan government is committed to a number of ICT-related initiatives in the areas of e-Infrastructure, e-Government, Technology-enhanced Learning, eHealth, e-Commerce, ICT for Rural Development and Entrepreneurship. Although the implementation of these initiatives is primarily the role of government ministries, departments and agencies, district and local authorities, development partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), investment from the private sector and the building of ICT human resource capacity is important to ensuring their long term sustainability. However, a recent newspaper article in New Vision reported that only 37% of graduates were “fit” for the job (source: East African, May 2014).

For ICT to play a significant role in the development of this country we must have the appropriate workforce that has the right mindset, skill set, and toolset to develop appropriate solutions for the different sectors of the economy. The program will challenge the students to see ICT beyond the writing code and building basic networks i.e. project management, UI/UX specialists, and business analysts among others. Within the six months we believe students will build significant interest in different verticals within the software development industry.

It is also important to note that the role of the IT professional is evolving very fast and as such, they are required to possess new skills. At the moment there is no program that prepares these young graduates for the new workplace role. This program will attempt to enable the students to appreciate the requirements of the dynamic workplace. Fig 1. is a graphical representation of the new dynamic workplace.

The Program Focus

The program focuses on influencing three non-technical learning areas;

  1. Mindset; the program will have 30% of the program time and content focused on mindset. This aspires to develop a well-rounded human being who can readily respond to the call of service but most importantly a problem solver with a pro-active mindset. The content in this area will concentrate on the individual, to enable identify their purpose and mission in life and the legacy they would like to leave. Personal leadership requires that people connect with themselves and constantly evaluate their mission in life at all times.
  2. Skill Set; the program will seek to impart skills relevant to respond to the challenges in the different sectors that require ICT interventions. Students will be exposed to different technologies that will enhance their skill set. It is envisaged that after the training the students will have acquired appropriate skills to enable them to productively contribute to the development of the ICT solutions.
  3. Tool Set; the program will expose the participants to a multitude of tools to enable them to effectively utilize their skills. IHSU and the project partners are seeking strategic partnerships that will contribute to the availability of appropriate tools like software, hardware, and practice devices among others. Skills without appropriate tools will not deliver the desired Return on Investment.

By focusing on these three areas it is envisaged that the participants will complete the program as well as balanced graduates with the appropriate mental attitude, a skill set, and tools that will enable them to deliver exceptional results.

Technical Focus

There are majorly three challenging areas when it comes to ICT driven interventions. The challenge, however, has been that every attempt to integrate ICT in service delivery has been on a piecemeal approach, certainly not beyond pilot implementation. The three major challenge areas, are Enterprise Systems, Affordable Technologies, and Big Data. These three form the core verticals that have been missing or if there has been an attempt it has been in silos. We envisage

  1. Enterprise Systems; a study undertaken by computer world reports that in ERP professionals will have the greatest salary increase in 2016.  A lot of emphases has been that by focusing on these three the program will attract strategic partnerships that will support and spur the program.
  2. Affordable, Reliable Solutions/Technologies; there has been a significant attempt to provide technologies to the resource-constrained communities. However, these technologies are developed for economies where the human resource challenge is not major. In our case technologies that are developed tend to be hypothetical i.e. for a community that does not exist and as such, the failure rate of these technologies is rather high. The component will focus on equipping the students with skills that will interrogate the environment to identify the gaps/challenges and develop appropriate solutions to respond to the challenges. Developing mobile-enabled solutions in this part of the world. However, enabling the consumer without systematically enabling the service provided seems like a futile attempt. Africa and Uganda, in particular, is in need of specific enterprise solutions that enable institutions in the different sectors enhance their service delivery. Secondly, from a business perspective, the enterprise solutions model is mature, unlike the mobile version that seems to be evolving influenced by a multitude of factors. For instance; the healthcare systems are largely manual and to change this would require a multifaceted approach.
  3. Big Data; “Big Data” has become a buzz concept within the development circles. Access to analyzed data in Africa and Uganda, in particular, is a nightmare. Even in hospitals where systems have been deployed there is hardly any attempt to process the data that is on the servers. Research is largely driven by data analysis, looking at trends and projecting potential re-occurrences. It is important that we have competencies to work with big data specifically to add value to the data on our machines. These competencies are generally lacking within the various sectors and we need to develop these competencies if we are going to develop ideal research agenda’s.