The state of ICT training and Industry in Kenya
A casual survey in the local dailies will show that nearly every college (registered or otherwise) is offering one form of IT training or another, be it computer packages such as word, excel or power-point or advanced programming in java or any language.
Our universities have not been left behind in this bandwagon and will be seen advertising courses such as BSc in animal husbandry with IT or plain old computer science degrees. IT is now not only a full meal on its own but a garnish added onto other seemingly unsavory or unpopular degree courses instantly making them ‘relevant’ on the job market.
The IT sector has been the fastest growing in the country’s economy and the demand for an IT literate work force is now higher as corporations automate their processes and use ICTs in all areas of their businesses from supply chain management, customer service to marketing. This therefore means that everyone from the company driver, receptionist, accountant and CEO must all be IT literate to one level or the other.
This demand has led to many institutions to offer IT courses in a bid to meet the demand of an IT savvy work force. The problem is that this action is unregulated and not subject to any standardization body.
The result of this is every institution from the most respected to the roof top colleges in Luthuli avenue can now offer a Diploma, certificate and even offer degrees in IT from an affiliate and shadowy foreign university. This glaring lack of regulation in IT training has led to poor standards and training methods and curricula in IT courses, it is not surprising to meet a diploma holder in IT who has never written and compiled a simple software program or done a basic process flow chat. I have personally met university IT graduates who have never heard of cloud computing or the SaaS concept.
Unlike the accounting sector where ICPAK offers guidelines and standards on training of accountants, or CLE that guides training of lawyers or the MPDB that guides and accredits medical training institutions and doctors, the PPB that regulates training of pharmacists, the IT training sector lacks any regulatory framework that can define who an IT professional is or what training a person needs to undergo to qualify as one. Today, anyone who can install windows or change the font of a document can call himself and IT professional/expert. The Computer Society of Kenya (CSK) had a good opportunity of becoming the regulatory body when it comes to IT training but it has been reduced to massaging the egos of subscription-paying corporates with their annual CSK awards to the ‘best company in this and that IT facet’ and forgot its core responsibility of ensuring that IT training in the country is standardized and regulated. a CPA offered in Strathmore University is no different from the one offered in Thurdibuor college…why? because of standardization and strict enforcement of CPA training standards by ICPAK. This is not true for IT training in the country.
The definition of who is IT professional is also wanting. An advocate is one who is registered by LSK, a medical doctor is one who is registered by the MPDB, a certified accountant is one who is registered by ICPAK and an architect is one who is registered by AAK; but who is an IT professional? Also, at what point does one become a professional? is it after attaining an academic degree? work experience? professional certification or when one feels like an expert?
From my experience, it is when one feels like and expert that he declares himself a professional. I have never heard of a BCom holder becoming a lawyer, a BSc Agriculture graduate becoming an accountant or a medical doctor or a graduate in hospitality becoming a dentist, I however know of people with degrees in education, veterinary medicine, Agriculture, Literature who are so called IT professionals by virtue of their encounter with a PC that had hanged and they managed to bring it back to life.
The industry needs to set standards on training and accreditation of IT professionals in Kenya. This can be done by holding consultative fora between the government and the industry players and set guidelines on curriculum and exams, accreditation of institutions, experience and continuous education and registration processes for the industry. The recent announcement by the government that the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is the first and most basic IT qualification is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.
This will not only weed the industry of quacks but also improve on the level of service delivery the industry will offer because there will now be guidelines which must be followed by the experts with consequences of de-registration should one not comply or act in a professional manner. Errant lawyers are frequently struck off the register and their names published in the mass media and so do accountants, architects and doctors.
Errant IT professionals on the other hand will go scot free and continue wrecking havoc and tarnishing the name of other honest, experienced professionals. Corporations also stand at risk by recruiting these professionals because they are not guided by any industry code of conduct. The unprofessional actions of these people who act in representing the companies they work for end up tarnishing the image of the company they represent or work for. This explains the failure of many IT projects in Kenya and the poor service delivery offered by IT companies such as IT vendors, ISPs and the rest.