Germany to fund new regional ICT centre of excellence

The government of Germany is set to deepen higher education cooperation with East Africa by funding the establishment of a centre of excellence in information and communication technology or ICT in the region to deliver a specialised masters programme in embedded and mobile systems.

The centre, to be formed through a partnership between the German Society for International Cooperation, the German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, and the Inter-University Council for East Africa, or IUCEA, will see a university or a consortium of universities selected to host the centre, and training students from across the region.

An invitation to tender has been posted online by DAAD and IUCEA, with a closing date of 31 July 2017.

News of the ICT centre of excellence comes as plans to establish the Eastern African-German University of Applied Sciences accelerate ahead of elections in both Germany and Kenya later this year. The university, to be set up under a bilateral arrangement between Kenya and Germany, will offer programmes under the German applied sciences model, to students from the wider Eastern African region.

The latest ICT centre of excellence project will be being funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to the tune of €1.38 million (US$1.54 million) and learning is expected to commence from September 2018.

Under the initiative an East African university or consortium of universities will be competitively appointed to host the centre and partner with a German university or consortium of universities, for the purposes of capacity development, academic exchange and curriculum development.

Digital transformation

“The primary goal of the project is for universities in East Africa to offer programmes and services that meet the requirements of private and public sectors as well as of civil society for a digital transformation in the region,” the invitation states.

The centre will also establish synergies with other centres of excellence in the region such as the ACE II initiative of the World Bank.

It is envisaged that “a highly modern masters programme will be set up which will include general and specific modules in embedded and mobile systems”, according to the tender documents.

DAAD will be the German partner for the university partnership and the masters degree programme, while the implementation partner on the East African side is the IUCEA.

The programme will have “practical elements”, including a four-week internship aimed at applying and deepening students' professional and interdisciplinary skills, and a one-semester practice-oriented masters thesis dealing primarily with problems in ICT-related work areas in the private and public sectors.

It will also have generic courses for interdisciplinary competencies such as soft skills, management and entrepreneurship.

Emphasis on women

Up to 40 students will be enrolled per cohort with a special emphasis on women. Graduates with a first academic degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as professionals working in academia, industry or the public sector, are the target.

Teaching and technical staff seconded to the centre will receive specially tailored training to enable them to execute their duties, helping in technology transfer.

According to IUCEA, the masters programme will be established as a bilateral cooperation within the framework of DAAD’s Africa Strategy and will complement the existing DAAD-funded African Centres of Excellence (ACE) programme.

The institution selected to host the centre will be required to establish regional networks with a “clear focus” on cooperation with both private and public sectors, and should be dedicated to serving socio-economic integration and the development agenda of the region.

Double degree programme

“In the medium term, the establishment of a double degree programme with reciprocal recognition of educational modules between the selected German University and the East African partner university is conceivable,” says the DAAD document.

Funds will be provided to support teaching and administrative staff, provision of learning materials and equipment and to facilitate coordination of the partnership.

Also to be covered under the funding will be major academic activities including curricula development, workshops and conferences, summer school, supervision of theses and internships and student exchange.

Scholarships and research grants will also be provided to students under the project which will run from October 2017 to December 2020.

Interested universities on both sides have up to the end of July to apply and an international “expert commission” will select the successful institutions.