IBM Africa began its operations in Kenya in 1959 and opened its Kenyan office in 2000 to act as a head office for East Africa.  Its mandate is to help companies analyze data and use it to make a difference in business or other intentions. Their objective in Kenya is to impact people’s lives by delivering Africa solutions to African problems, drive growth and innovation by developing partnerships and close ICT skills gaps via their university programmes.

It has partnered with Nairobi City Council to improve waste collection in the region through use of data to show how waste can be collected efficiently. Secondly, it is working with Bidco to manage its IT infrastructure so as to increase its presence across the country. Others include Apple Inc, social media platforms (Facebook and twitter), SAP and mobile experience companies looking to advance client infrastructure. They look forward to partnering with analytics to examine client’s data and device partners to aid in collection of data.

To ensure that Kenya’s ICT sector remains relevant or vibrant, IBM East Africa, Program Director, Ben Mann in an interview said “IBM is participating greatly in ICT integration and modernization. By this we are helping our clients build their own data centers and run them. We make sure that customers manage their IT services in an incremental fashion. This is easily done by linking cloud services with customers dubbed hybrid-cloud technology. Further, we are boosting ICT skills among students and university faculties by offering programmes that aim at training and equipping university faculties in latest technologies. The curriculum ensures that both parties have enough skills in dealing with problems of cyber security and cloud computing services.”

 “Cloud computing is an ICT solution that allows people to use, store , process data or create applications from a network of remote servers on the internet rather than a local server or a personal which are later available for somebody else to use. It helps one manage and run IT resources in a flexible way. Cloud computing is mainly used by IT providers (service provider) and users of IT services and technologies. The third target audience is innovators. They get a chance to experiment and innovate very rapidly with minimal upfront inventing successful solutions,” he added.

IBM has a cloud-computing platform dubbed Bluemix that facilitates innovators to develop solutions for clients. IBM says that there is insufficient digitized data in Kenya, which poses major hindrance to quality or accessibility of information. “There is too much data that requires to be changed into the form of let’s say spreadsheets and in a visualized form so as to make sense out of it for a business person. The other challenge is insufficient skills labour in digitizing or cleaning data and later presenting it to decision makers. Thirdly, is being able to combine different types of data to create a solution. To counter this, government and private sector needs to start sharing data in efforts to stimulate innovation, Ben reiterated.

On the other hand, IBM is working with local open data organizations to see how data can be divided. They seek to provide a technical framework where data can be quickly and easily altered into a monetized and secure form.

Kooba Kenya Limited is set to build a data center facility to be operational in second quarter of 2016. The center will be located in Mombasa between Seacom landing station and Telephone house. It will be the first ‘carrier hotel’ to handle all the global content that content providers want localized in Kenya. Icolo.Io is another company eyeing to put up two data centers in Mombasa and Nairobi. These will provide first class co-location of services such as internet, telecomm, financial and medical services to clients.

“Setting up data centers will largely help in overcoming issues dealing with data whilst creating a pool of resources and skills. To this effect, IBM is spending less energy on infrastructure and focusing on use of data. We encourage clients to take advantage of data centers with cloud services to enable clients improve data or information,” states Mann.

Engineers at IBM perform different tasks. A research engineer is involved in finding new ways of solving a problem by analyzing data and creating Africa specific customized solutions to fit requirements in Kenya. Engineers also work closely with IBM clients to scrutinize data, provide a secure environment of IT services to a client, build mobile applications, manage and run IT services on behalf of clients.

In conclusion, Ben Mann remarks that the future of innovation in Kenya is very bright and full of enthusiasm especially with great support from public and private sector. He is positive that more innovations are set to increase particularly in the mobile space and other areas

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