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

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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.

Support

The Celestini Program is supported by the Thornton Tomasetti Foundation.

Contact:

Caroline Tuhwezeine
Communications Officer, RENU
communications[at]renu.ac.ug

Harriet Adong
Director of Communications, Learning & Knowledge, RANLab
hadong[at]ranlab.org

Taia Pandolfi
Marketing & Communications Manager, the Marconi Society
taia[at]marconisociety.org

Innovation

Digital Education is the Future and These Startups Are Here for It

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A user in the Computer Laboratory, Main Library, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Rarely has the education system been as shaken as in the last 12 months. Years of slow progress towards digitalization and new learning methods have been replaced by mandatory use of long distance communication tools, new testing methods, and a lot of creativity from teachers and parents on how to engage children in learning. With apps and different online tools becoming a part of children’s lives, it is no wonder that the EdTech startup scene has been flourishing.

According to Crunchbase, venture funding for EdTech reached 4.1 billion USD in the first seven months of 2020, which is 1.5 billion USD more than in the same time frame a year before. It is also the highest amount raised in that frame for the past five years. Most of these deals are still for U.S. based companies, with big players like Skillshare and Materclass raising funds in Series D and E, respectively. Some of the biggest deals are also in China, for example Yuanfudao raised a billion USD in Series G and Zuoyebang raised 750 million USD in Series E.

EdTech wins two years in a row

Many emerging markets are still missing the necessary infrastructure and policies working towards keeping children in school though. Due to low income, children are often forced to leave school and work at a very young age. This is why digital education is especially important in these markets. It is often an answer to issues that involve education inaccessibility and high costs, providing an innovative and quality learning environment to children.

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Innovation

How Diversification Helped Switzerland During the Pandemic

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The Swiss flag flies high. Photo credit: Seedstars

It is well known that Switzerland has one of the strongest economies in the world. With the OECD grouping them into the high-income countries and the second highest GDP in the world, even economy newbies know that this small central-European country is synonymous with stability and prosperity.

The business environment is an interesting mix of world-famous companies, top-notch universities and research facilities, SMEs and startups working in a relatively small geographical area. Ranging from medicine, precious metals and gemstones, heavy machinery, to tobacco, chocolate and luxury perfumes and cosmetics, the 310 billion USD exports can compete with countries with more resources and population.

The Swiss economy is based on a highly qualified labour force working in specialized industries, with the main economic activities being pharmaceuticals, machinery, food and financial services. The “land of watches” can boast its high-class motors, generators, turbines and a whole range of other deep tech products. Continuous investments in research and development (about 3 percent of total GDP) has not only diversified the existing industries, but made it one one of the best places to do business.

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Innovation

Ericsson Innovation Awards 2021

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The Low-Cost Medical Ventilator (Bulamu Ventilator), a product of Makerere University and Kiira Motors Corporation on display in the Main Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda on 28th August 2020 during the launch of two innovations in the fight against COVID-19.

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the digital divide is growing. Economic, geographic, gender and access factors have left vast portions the global population at a severe disadvantage. The causes are many, including lack of infrastructure, resources and the high cost of devices. Your challenge is to identify a digital divide and develop a solution to bridge it.

How to participate

To enter the awards, you must register with a complete entry by August 5, 2021, 13:00 CET (2:00PM EAT).

A ‘complete entry’ means all required questions are answered and you have registered up to four total team members, all of whom are currently enrolled students pursuing a university degree. To qualify, each team member must be pursuing a higher vocational or academic degree (undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate), and graduating on or after the end date of the Semi-finalist period (September 13, 2021).

We strongly encourage you to embrace diversity and inclusiveness by bringing team members from different disciplines, cultures, life experience and skill sets. We’ve found that diverse teams often produce the most inspired ideas.

Entries are allocated into seven regions, depending on where your university is based.

By registering with a complete submission, you will automatically be entered to compete in the regional competition and will be eligible to be considered for the Global Semi-finals.

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