Research Priority Areas Identified at the ICT Faculty Forum
The KENET Special Interest Group on Computer Science and Information Systems (SIG CSIS) successfully organized an ICT Faculty Forum held on Friday, November 16 at the Movenpick Hotel and Residences in Westlands, Nairobi. The one-day Forum assembled 93 participants who comprised of Heads of ICT departments, nominated faculty, representatives, and invited guests representing 42 Universities. The main objective of the Forum was for the faculty heads to identify key research priority areas in Computer Science (CS) and Information Systems (IS) which KENET can support in the coming year.
The ICT Department Heads identified Health Informatics, Bioinformatics, Material Sciences, Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs), and Big Data Analytics (BDA) as some of the key areas of focus and collaboration. The Forum also served as the launch of the ICT Survey, an aggregated universities data on student enrollment in CS/IS/IT areas, graduates in ICT at different levels, and full-time faculty. KENET Executive Director, Prof. Meoli Kashorda also shared the findings of CS/IS research productivity of Kenya (Elsevier SciVal report) for the period 2015 – 2017.
Research productivity in the areas of CS/IS were found to be low as only 359 papers were published during the period 2015/2018. The findings also revealed that despite the Ministry of Education directive to scrap off parallel programs, student enrollment was still on the rise. The year 2016/17 recorded 547,477 while year 2017/18 recorded 586,426 in total. The findings indicated that there is a total of 49 Computer Science departments while IT and Information Systems each have 25 and 14 respectively. 18 new ICT departments were created from the time the last survey was done in 2016.
Participants at the ICT Faculty Forum
The keynote address from Andrew Kinai, an IBM research Africa Scientist gave the audience a detailed breakdown of Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies with real-world use cases. The use cases are from the projects that are being undertaken by IBM in Africa. The CS/IS Mini-Grant winners who are currently being supported by KENET in the areas of Big Data & Analytics and Distributed Ledger Technology also shared their cases during the lighting talks. Other areas covered by other presenters during the lightning talks were Health Informatics by Dr. John Muthee, Material sciences by Prof. George Omollo and Bioinformatics by Dr. Caleb Kibet.
In addition to identifying the key research priority areas, the Forum offered an opportunity for the ICT departments heads to interact with their colleagues during the break-way sessions. The sessions provided a platform for the ICT Heads to discuss priority areas on curricula strategy, research ICT and education technology services requirements needs. The KENET research team also presented a live demonstration on the KENET Research Cloud platform which the participants could use to facilitate their research.
With KENET aiming to promote research collaboration among Kenyan universities, the research priority areas identified in CS/IS during the Forum will be supported by SIG CSIS in 2019 through travel grants, award of research mini-grants, and preparation of collaborative research proposals that shall be submitted to different funding agencies such as the Kenya National Research Fund (NRF) in 2019.
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