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Press Release: Growing Uganda’s Next Generation of Technology Leaders: Applications Open for Cutting-Edge Student Training Program



May 3, 2021—The Marconi Society today announced that applications are open for the Celestini Program, a workforce development and STEM education initiative that pairs underrepresented students with training, mentorship, funding, and meaningful opportunities to use new technologies to make a difference in their local communities. 

This project is a partnership with the Research Education Network for Uganda (RENU), a cooperative research and education network of Ugandan institutions, ResilientAfrica Network (RANLab), a research and innovation partnership of 23 African universities that nurtures and scales innovations from its member organizations, and Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a global leader in network technology and workforce development. 

“We envision a future where practitioners of communications technology are as diverse as the population they need to serve,” says Samantha Schartman-Cycyk, Executive Director of the Marconi Society. “Through this partnership, we bring together decades of experience in networks, mentorship, and workforce training to provide hands-on experience to students who will define the future of STEM.”

“Our vision is to create a national research and education environment in which Uganda’s researchers and scholars effectively contribute to knowledge creation, dissemination and application in solving society’s problems through local and international collaboration,” says Nicholas Mbonimpa, RENU’s Chief Executive Officer. “ This partnership provides a very good opportunity for students and researchers of our member institutions to acquire skills and develop their concepts and ideas into solutions for our community.”

“Our mission is to strengthen resilience in Africa through University-led local innovative solutions using evidenced-based approaches,” says Professor William Bazeyo, RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director. “This partnership is yet another opportunity for our students, innovators, and researchers to positively contribute to addressing diverse and complex challenges in the communities in which we live and serve. As we implement this project activities, we shall also largely leverage RAN’s innovation management expertise and experience to grow community members including ICT faculty and students’’, Prof. Bazeyo added.

The program consists of two tracks:

  • The eduroam: Expanding Remote Access to Information track will provide job training and opportunities in network services management while vastly expanding student and faculty access to university resources on- and off-campus. 
  • The LoRaWAN: Sensor Networks Solving Local Problems track offers students the chance to learn about and use the cutting-edge Long-Range Wide Area Network technology, exploring the solutions this network could offer to community problems. 

All student applicants must be enrolled at a RENU member university to be considered.

eduroam: Expanding Remote Access to Information 

Applications due May 28, 2021

This workforce development initiative is for undergraduate students entering their final year of university and provides the opportunity to gain skills in identity management and database administration, mentorship from global leaders in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and post-program engagement managing their university’s rollout of eduroam.

By deploying and maintaining this technology across universities in Uganda, this project aims to develop a more robust infrastructure of interconnected higher education institutions by widening access to educational resources and communications. The program runs for eight weeks, after which students will be required to support the ICT team of their university during their final year to manage the ongoing administrative and technical responsibilities of the service, possibly leading to future jobs in these areas.

Students must be enrolled in and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, or telecommunications engineering at the time of application.

Applications open May 1 and are due by the end of the day, May 28, EAT. The program runs for eight weeks, from Monday, June 21 through Friday, August 20 . Participating students must attend an on-site training in Kampala at the RENU Secretariat.

LoRaWAN: Sensor Networks Solving Local Problems

Applications due June 18, 2021

This initiative is for graduate (Master’s or PhD) student proposals to use a LoRaWAN (Long-Range Wide Area Network) environment to create technology proofs of concept that address local community needs, with guidance from mentors who are global leaders in ICT, technical and equipment support from NSRC, and funding up to $5,000 per project from the Marconi Society. 

NSRC will partner with the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy to provide technical support, training materials, and assist Ugandan faculty researchers and students with procuring sensors and LoRaWAN gateway equipment to enable sustainable deployments in the field.

The goal of this track is to allow students to get hands-on experience using new technology while partnering with the community and thinking creatively about user-focused applications. In order to ensure community input, each project should include collaboration with at least one community-based organization. 

Applications open May 1 and are due by the end of the day, June 18, EAT. The program runs through the 2021–2022 academic year, beginning August 1, 2021. It is designed to be compatible with a full course load. While student applicants are not required to be enrolled in technical programs, it is suggested that applicants outside of ICT-based fields enlist a collaborator with the skills to use LoRaWAN technology.

History of the Program

Celestini: Uganda is an extension of the Celestini Program, the Marconi Society’s experiential learning initiative developed by its Paul Baran Young Scholars. It aims to create a strong and diverse engineering profession by pairing students with resources to gain hands-on technical experience while pursuing projects that address community needs.

Past student-led projects include using sensing technology to monitor air quality in India, addressing water waste in Colombia using Internet of Things technology and machine learning, and increasing civic engagement in Rwanda through a mobile application.

The Celestini Program operates using a partnership model, wherein a local institution collaborates with leaders in the Marconi Society’s network to empower students to use new technologies to address local problems with guidance from leaders in ICT. 

About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society envisions a world in which everyone can create opportunity through the benefits of connectivity. The organization celebrates, inspires, and connects individuals building tomorrow’s technologies in service of a digitally inclusive world.

About the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC)

The Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) works directly with the indigenous network engineers and operators who develop and maintain the Internet infrastructure in their respective countries and regions by providing technical information, engineering assistance, training, donations of networking books, equipment and other resources.

About Research Education Network for Uganda (RENU)

Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) is a nonprofit National Research and Education Network (NREN) that offers affordable services uniquely designed to enable collaboration among its member institutions and their global partners. The network is a cooperatively owned and community-driven service provider that helps to facilitate research and education networking among its member institutions.

About ResilientAfrica Network (RANLab)

The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), funded by USAID, is a research and innovation partnership of 23 Universities across 16 African countries led by Makerere University. RAN strengthens and builds the resilience of African communities by identifying, nurturing and scaling cross disciplinary innovations to respond to community most pressing challenges.


The Celestini Program is supported by the Thornton Tomasetti Foundation.


Caroline Tuhwezeine
Communications Officer, RENU

Harriet Adong
Director of Communications, Learning & Knowledge, RANLab

Taia Pandolfi
Marketing & Communications Manager, the Marconi Society


MIT Solve’s 2024 Global Challenges



Some of the equipment commissioned at the Innovation Pod, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University. Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Open Call For Solutions

Solve’s Global Challenges seek exceptional innovators who are using technology to solve today’s most pressing problems. Submissions are open until April 18.

Those selected become a Solver team and join our nine-month support program, receive access to funding in grants and investments, join a powerful network of impact-minded leaders, receive coaching and strategic advice from experts, and gain exposure in the media, among many other benefits.

Since 2016, over 20,000 solutions headquartered in over 180 countries have been submitted in response to Solve’s Global Challenges. We’re now proud to support a diverse group of 299 Solver teams, who have collectively impacted over 190 million lives worldwide. These teams are 62% women-led and headquartered in 59 different countries.

Apply to an open challenge

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UN General Assembly President visits Mak Innovations Hub



Makerere University was yet again privileged to host the 78th UN General Assembly President H.E. Dennis Francis, who visited the newly equipped Innovation Pod/Hub to see the ideas that students have turned into innovative products.  

H.E. Dennis Francis, on January 20, 2024, challenged innovators to convert their brilliant ideas into meaningful assets, emphasizing that this is what intellectual property is about. “It is about creating value where there was none,” H.E. Dennis said.  

Intellectual property, he said, can be traditional knowledge passed on from one generation to another as well as traditional herbs. “Africans are by nature imaginative and creative, so I have no doubt that this center will contribute to not just innovation but to the development of Uganda, Africa, and the global south,” he said.

UN General Assembly President H.E. Dennis Francis (3rd Right), H.E. Elsie Attafuah (2nd Left) The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP -Uganda) Resident Representative and Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) on a tour of the Innovations Hub on Saturday 20th Jan 2024.
UN General Assembly President H.E. Dennis Francis (3rd Right), H.E. Elsie Attafuah (2nd Left) – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP -Uganda) Resident Representative and Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) on a tour of the Innovations Hub on Saturday 20th Jan 2024.

The Makerere University Innovations Hub, which was recently established with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is set to start driving the commercialization of innovations and enterprises resulting from the research undertaken by scholars and students at Makerere University.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, welcomed his H.E. Dennis Francis to Makerere University and expressed optimism that the innovation pod would transform innovators within and outside the university. Prof. Nawangwe welcomed the general public to use the facility, citing the first diesel engine made in Uganda by artisans in Entebbe. He said the artisans worked with the staff of Makerere University on the project.

While welcoming the UN General Assembly President, the UNDP Country Representative, Elsie Attafuah, shared with him some of the developments UNDP has been engaged in, such as the ICT hub in Nakawa, Uganda’s digital transformation road map, as well as other regional initiatives. She hoped the Innovation Pod would facilitate the creation of thousands of startup companies, create jobs and business value, and ensure Africa is more competitive.

One of the EC Machines installed in the Innovations Pod

The Makerere University Innovations Pod is one of 13 pods created and supported by UNDP across the African Continent, under what the organization calls the “Tibukutu Initiative.”

Commissioned on January 9, 2024, the research facility is expected to drive technological advancements in the country. The Innovation Hub aims to provide a collaborative space for entrepreneurs and researchers to develop groundbreaking solutions. The hub will offer state-of-the-art facilities and resources to support the growth of startups and facilitate knowledge sharing. It will also foster networking opportunities and mentorship programs to help entrepreneurs navigate the challenges of starting and scaling their businesses. By providing access to cutting-edge technology and expertise, the Innovation Hub will empower entrepreneurs and researchers to push the boundaries of innovation in the country. Additionally, the hub will serve as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth by attracting investors and fostering collaboration between startups and established businesses.

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Business & Management

Makerere Innovations Hub celebrates Persons living with Disabilities



Standing: Dean School of Business-Prof. Godfrey Akileng (2nd Left), Head Department of Marketing and Management-Prof. Peter Turyakira (Left), Director, Makerere University Innovations Hub and Project PI-Dr. Cathy Mbidde (Right) with officials and some of the persons living with disabilities during the celebrations on 1st December 2023. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University Innovations Hub has commemorated the international day for persons living with disabilities by celebrating these young innovators.

The celebrations were held at Makerere University in the Yusuf Lule Teaching Facility-Auditorium on December 01.

The persons living with disabilities showcased different skills in shoe making, soap making, bracelets making, weaving among others, parading their items they make to earn a living.

Makerere University Innovations Hub started up a project last year dubbed, “Innovativeness of Young Persons with Disabilities in Uganda” to support them in discovering their skills and help them to start a journey to economic empowerment. The programme is sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, a UK based agency.

 Dr Cathy Mbidde, the Principal Investigator (PI) of this programme, said she conceived the idea in December 2022 from a class assignment that she gave to students to go into the community and identify problems.

 “I wanted them to go and find problems in the community to start a business. So they identified a few problems but one of the groups of students had a disabled person and she was struggling as they were arguing how to develop the product. That is how I realized that I can do something to impact people with disabilities,” she said

Dr Mbidde said she took a step to initiate a programme that can keep these persons busy and at the same time start up some businesses convenient for them to do.

“In December last year, there was a call from the Royal Academy of Engineering providing grants and I wrote and won the Frontiers Champions grant of around Shs42 million to organize an event,” she said.

She says one of the objectives of this programme was to identify persons living with disabilities who are innovative.

“How are they able to maneuver and start an enterprise or do some kind of business in an innovative way. I also wanted to look for stakeholders who can support them to execute their innovativeness,” she said.

The PI wanted to get for them a platform where they can come together and share experiences.

Dr. Cathy Mbidde (Right) with officials and some of the persons living with disabilities pose for a group photo. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Dr. Cathy Mbidde (Right) with officials and some of the persons living with disabilities pose for a group photo.

During the initial stages of the programme, Dr Mbidde went out to the field and made research about persons living with disabilities. She identified a few things that they needed including decent housing after noting that some of them were living in houses which could not accommodate them.

She also found out that these people lacked school fees to take their children to school and something needed to be done to see a way to bail them out of this situation.

“They had the skills but did not have the resources, we therefore came up and picked 15 persons during our pilot study of one year,” she said.

Dr Mbidde partners with different agencies and organizations to pave a way of helping skilled persons living with disabilities.

Ms Penninah Nakandi, one of the persons living with disabilities who doubles as the Executive Director of Persons with disabilities in Business Uganda (PIB-UG) said she empowers youth and mothers of children living with disabilities through an economic skilling programme.

“We believed that after dropping papers of applications seeking for jobs and people at times don’t even respond to us, we decided to startup that initiative and we have moved a long way because we have a total of 55 members,” she said adding that PIB-UG offers mentorship and empowers people to work as a team.

Mr Gerald Sunday, the Centenary Bank branch manager at Makerere said they have special packages for PWDs who are doing private businesses, small scale cottage businesses like those doing tailoring, liquid soap making, shoe making among others.

“We invite them to come for startup capital. We have youth negotiable loans at 16 percent per annum right from shs50,000 up to shs5 million as long as they qualify and are in the age bracket of the youth,” he said.

Mr Edwin Leroy, the Operations manager at Isitoshe Tours and Travel company, which mostly deals with people living disabilities in touring services said most of these people have been left behind but they have now embarked on helping them to engage in different job opportunities.

“We want to take the initiative to be part of this programme to see that the persons living with disabilities can exercise their skills and at the end of the day, they can improve their well-being,” he said.

He added: “We want to help them to engage in different activities that can generate income for them and equally participate and compete with all other people that do not have disabilities.”

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