Safaricom has today partnered with Strathmore University and Vodafone to establish a training facility to build the necessary technological capacity to match the needs of the fast growing telecommunication industry in the country.

The facility is named Safaricom Academy and is meant to train graduates interested in advancing careers in telecommunications and development of mobile software applications.

The institution will also provide entrepreneurial talent with certified qualifications and experiential training in collaboration with globally established academic institutions. Its first program is the Master of Science in Telecommunication Innovation and Development (MSc. TID) to be realized through a collaborative effort with Strathmore University.

Applications for the second intake of the programme are currently opened. For further information, check: http/www.strathmore.edu/mobile/SafaricomAcademy.php

Application Deadline: 23rd May 2011. Only applications submitted electronically via  will be considered. Speaking during the launch, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said there was need for affordable and relevant applications that can enhance the lives of Kenyans.

According to Collymore, the high unemployment situation in the country coupled with the current availability of data capacity created a huge opportunity for developing and commercializing affordable innovative applications.

“This opportunity can only be effectively exploited through fostering and nurturing of ideas in a supportive environment which can produce applications attractive enough for subscriber consumption,” said Collymore.

Strathmore’s Vice Chancellor Prof John Odhiambo said the initiative is a good example of linkages between academia and industry. “The academia needs the support of industry in order to produce job ready graduates, and Safaricom is leading the way through this initiative,” he said.

In addition, Safaricom has partnered with Vodafone to offer The Betavine Platform which provides an online lab for all Kenyans to develop, test and expose their innovations to subscribers worldwide.

Students in the Academy will also benefit from the @iLabAfrica initiative at Strathmore. @iLabAfrica is a new Centre of Excellence in ICT Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Incubation and Policy Research for Africa.

@iLabAfrica will work in collaboration with the Safaricom Academy as a continuation of the current partnership to provide students who go through the Safaricom Academy programme a continued support as they undertake their studies as well as a follow-up support once they graduate.

In our experience, many of our students are developing mature applications ripe for the local market. Unfortunately, they have a number of barriers to overcome before they can set-up successful businesses: lack of capital, lack of business experience and lack of physical resources.

@iLabAfrica will provide support to these students in a variety of ways:

  • Access to seed capital and to potential investors.
  • Mentoring programmes to help them develop realistic business plans, register their business, as well as providing advice on IP issues, opportunities of networking, etc.
  • Physical resources such as office space and facilities.
  • Access to relevant Library resources.
  • Access to a variety of mobile phones, short codes, SMS gateways, mPesa pay accounts, etc. for testing their applications

The (MSc. TID) academic program will be run for a period of two academic years after which the students will be awarded the degree. This will be after a series of successful training modules at Strathmore University and eMobilis and a successful incubation period in Safaricom’s development garages. During the incubation period within Safaricom, the candidates will serve under the Value Added Services (VAS) Department where they will be managed and trained in Application Development by eMobilis.

All applications developed during this time will be owned by Safaricom and offered as free content to Safaricom customers in efforts to drive up data usage and revenue. The students will then be awarded with the Master of Science in Telecommunication Innovation and Development, recognized globally.

Under the academic programme, an incubation centre will be provided to enable entrepreneurs conduct research and development in a professional, conducive environment under guidance from established specialists.

Apart from enhancing academic competence through certified qualifications, students at the academy will benefit from mentorship and coaching skills through the world renowned eMobilis. This will expose them to the global market through the Safaricom AppStore where they can market their applications. Purchasers of these applications can pay through the M-PESA money transfer service.

To ensure transparency in the working of the academy and to interface between Safaricom, application developers, and content aggregator, the telecommunication company will launch the Safaricom Innovation Board. The board will be made up of different stakeholders in innovation and application development in Kenya.

The board will play a liaison role of interacting with the innovators and guiding them on how to actualize their ideas. It will also guide application developers on how to refine their applications and how commercialize them. The board is also tasked with identifying those who require further learning or exposure to increasing their skills by exposing them to Safaricom Incubation Center.

“Through these initiatives, Safaricom is looking at encouraging local innovation, developing mobile applications in the industry, enhancing the use of M-PESA and living to our tradition as the industry’s innovation leaders,” said Mr. Collymore.

Some 30 recently graduated students have already been recruited by Strathmore University and Safaricom to pioneer the academic programme. The students used the launch occasion to showcase their applications developed during their period in the period in incubation.

Safaricom has in the recent past enhanced initiatives aimed at increasing data uptake and usage in the country. Among them is partnership with device makers to come up with affordable but data enabled handsets and laptops.

These initiatives will increase local content on the Internet and improve relevance and uptake.

Safaricom is also actively working with the Ministry of Information, Kenya ICT Board and other stakeholders in setting up Digital Villages to ensure that Kenyans, especially those living in the rural areas, have access to reliable internet connection. Over 600 Digital Villages are currently connected.

“We will continue investing heavily in this area as we are convinced that this is a natural progression from our legacy leadership in voice and innovation as seen in a steady pipeline of life-changing propositions including the globally-acclaimed M-PESA, a pioneer in its category,” Mr Collymore adds.