While studying at a rural high school in western Kenyan county of Homa Bay several years ago, Terrence Omondi’s resolve to plunge into technology-related fields hit the climax thanks to nudging by tutors and close family members.
The 22-year-old telecommunications and information engineering major at a public university near the Kenyan capital of Nairobi believes that his youthful agility, energy and passion has placed him in a vantage position to drive his homeland’s digital transformation agenda.
Having emerged as the top winner in the 2021-2022 edition of Huawei’s ICT Competition, Omondi’s quest to be at the steering wheel as Kenya’s fourth industrial revolution unfolds received much-needed vitality.
“It feels good to have acquired high-end skills like network security, data transmission, and configuration through the Huawei ICT competition,” Omondi told Xinhua recently at a ceremony to honor winners of the digital skills contest supported by Huawei.
He was among over 3,000 youth drawn from dozens of local public universities who participated in the annual Huawei ICT competition that put to test their ability to navigate the digital space.
Omondi and his eight colleagues who qualified for the regional contest to be held at the end of February demonstrated high-level proficiency in advanced ICT skills including networking and managing systems.
The ambitious youngster learnt about the contest from a friend toward the last quarter of 2021 and decided to give it a try, even as he grappled with a busy academic calendar.
“The competition itself was challenging. I had to juggle classwork and rigorous study as well as visit to the labs for practical lessons which were part of the competition,” said Omondi.
In December, he participated in the final phase of the national contest, and at the beginning of January, he was informed about his sterling performance and eventual qualification for the regional version.
Omondi credits Huawei for providing him with a platform to hone his ICT skills, adding that he looked forward to becoming a network engineer and working in any of the large telecom firms in the country.
A sizable number of female university students participated in the 2021-2022 edition of Huawei ICT competition, defying culturally sanctioned limitations to prove their mettle.
Stephanie Cherono, a 22-year-old electrical engineering major at Kenya’s oldest university, the University of Nairobi, said that she was elated to learn that she was among the female winners of the grueling contest.
“Participation in the contest was in itself a giant leap of faith in my abilities to operate networking systems, transmit and store data in the cloud,” said Cherono.
“I knew ICT was a male dominated field but I am determined to prove that even women and girls can excel in this space. In future, I intend to apply skills gained from the Huawei ICT competition to mentor young girls,” she added.
According to Cherono, it was while she was in high school at a rural hamlet in northwestern Kenya when her physics teacher encouraged her to take up a career in information technology.
When an opportunity to participate at the Huawei digital skills contest came knocking her way, she took it gladly, worked hard and outshone fiercely competitive peers to emerge among the top ten winners.
“It was not easy to balance class work and the competition which involved lots of reading and prepping ahead of examinations. Nevertheless, it was fulfilling to learn in early January that I was a winner,” said Cherono.
Thousands of Kenyan youth who have participated in the national Huawei ICT competition have gained invaluable skills besides positioning themselves to grab opportunities in the emerging digital economy.
Jerome Ochieng, the principal secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, said that a strategic partnership with Huawei has boosted digital literacy in the country.
“Through our partnership with Huawei, we have been able to bridge the skills gap in the ICT sector to help promote growth of the knowledge-based economy in the country,” said Ochieng.
He noted that Huawei ICT competition has also provided a platform to mentor and upskill the next generation of specialists in advanced fields like artificial intelligence, block chain, network security and cloud computing.
Kevin Wen, the director of Enterprise Business Group at Huawei Kenya, said a partnership with Kenya’s institutions of higher learning has grown stronger in order to produce a critical mass of skilled workforce that could power digital transformation in the country.