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Rush to roll out fibre optics training

Fibre optic cables have opened a new revenue door for training institutions as IT staff seek to upgrade their skills to match the new technology. Photo/FILE
Fibre optic cables have opened a new revenue door for training institutions as IT staff seek to upgrade their skills to match the new technology. Photo/FILE 

Fibre optic cables that went live a few months ago have opened a new revenue door for training institutions as IT staff in government and the private sector seek to upgrade their skills to match the new technology.

African eDevelopment Resource Centre, for instance, has partnered with local and international technology experts to host a series of training on fibre optics towards the end of this month.

The institution says that there is a high demand for the training that are more urgent for telecom firms and internet service providers (ISPs) that have their products anchored on technology which results in the need for frequent network configurations and upgrades.

The products include mobile money transfer services and corporate communication services based on the internet.

“People need new skills to deploy the fibre optic technology. We train staff of ISPs, IT consultants, and anyone yearning for knowledge,” said Andrew Karanja, operations director at Afrcan eDevelopment Resource Centre.

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The three-day course that starts on October 27 will cost Sh122,250 per person and will have four units covering simple introductory concepts to more technical topics.

The courses are designed for people who already have high technical knowledge and are already working in ICT environments.

“We are dealing with power users who need just a few days for them to become familiar with this new technology, hence the short courses,” said Karanja.

“Again, these are busy people who are holding jobs and the short courses therefore make sense,” he added.

Analysts say that fibre optics training is bound to gain speed now that it is the internet platform of choice, given its speed advantage over satellite connections.

Business Daily has learnt that Zetech College is working on a fibre optic course to be launched next January.

According to people familiar with the matter, the course will last for one year and is targeted at equipping students with new data communication technologies that are currently much sought-after by employers.

A source at Strathmore University, who sought anonymity, said the institution offers training for corporate staff on communication networks.

The training costs Sh25,000 but the rates may vary if the professionals want to be taught separately in a customised training programme.

Other companies are taking a two-pronged approach to meeting training needs that rapid changes in the ICT world necessitates.

Mrs Gladys Ogallo, HR & Administration Manager at UUNET says the company engages the services of consultants who train staff on new technologies.

It also has a “training session once a month in which more knowledgeable staff pass on their skills to their colleagues.”

Public universities, on the other hand, have been teaching fibre optics for sometime now but unlike their private counterparts, have not structured their training to earn revenue from it as a standal-one area of study.

Their focus has been mainly on theoretical aspects since the technology had not yet been activated locally.

Fibre optics is taught under general computer network courses. But the training is slowly changing.

“We have been teaching it (fibre optics) for about two years. With the coming of fibre optics, we now have opportunities for demonstrations around our own campus,” said Dr Waweru Mwangi of the Institute of Computer Science and Information Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

JKUAT has partnered with the computer networks giant Cisco to form an academy at the institution.

From Cisco, JKUAT accesses e-resources that it uses to instruct students.

While the institution has made progress in training, analysts say that public universities are not as flexible as their private counterparts and are often slow in taking advantage of new market trends, especially crafting short courses for professionals.

According to education analysts, public university curricula are revised after long intervals, from four or more years, in effect making formal training adaptations to new developments a slow process.

Some technical departments at public universities are, however, devising a way around the bureaucracy.

“Our lecturers have a freehand on teaching materials to reflect changing trends. They do not have to wait for curriculum review that is done once in four years,” said Dr Christopher Moturi, deputy director, school of computing and informatics at University of Nairobi.

The heightened interest in fibre optic trainings has renewed the debate on the quality of ICT instruction offered by mushrooming private colleges.

Experts say that changes in the ICT landscape are so rapid that it is not uncommon to find only a few people in the country competent enough to offer training on a particular new technology.

“We have people from telecom companies come here once in a while and we realise that they are green in terms of fibre optic technology, for example,” said Dr Mwangi.

Analysts question the ability of some colleges offering ICT courses to recruit and retain competent staff that will ensure the roll out of quality and current courses for their students.

“Fibre optics is the in thing and any computer college not offering the course is doing a disservice to the learners,” Dr Moturi said.

Last month, Jessie Kirongothi, a technology expert and principal officer at Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examinations (KASNEB), said there are too many ICT certificates in the market offered by various training institutions and this is confusing employers.

He added that most of the training is theoretical.

Some colleges are teaching computer packages that have since become obsolete.

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