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Two Kenyans join IBM mainframe finals

Thursday March 13 2014
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Margaret Adhiambo Ondeng, a software engineering finalist at Kenyatta University, one of the two Kenyan students who emerged overall winners of the IBM’s Master the Mainframe competition beating 248 others. PHOTO/JOSHUA MASINDE

By JOSHUA MASINDE

Two Kenyan students, Raphael Kiminya Laibuni from Strathmore University, and Margaret Adhiambo Ondeng from Kenyatta University beat 250 others to emerge overall winners of the IBM’s Master the Mainframe competition.

They will join 43 other top students from various universities around the world in New York in April to participate in the finals.

The IBM Master the Mainframe Contest, part of the company's System z Academic Initiative, allows students around the world to take charge of world-class enterprise computing platforms and showcase their talents, while learning sought-after enterprise computing skills.

“These students will now have the opportunity to test their skills on the global stage and compete with their peers as well as identify potential employment opportunities in the mainframe segment,” said Andy Hoiles, IBM Server Solutions sales division.

Mr Laibuni 22, is a third year bachelors of business information technology student, while Ms Ondeng is a 24 year old software engineering student.

“I  look forward to meeting experienced business leaders in the computing world in this trip and to sharpen my skills,” she told nation.co.ke.

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She is also interested in developing software that will help advance medical technology. She and others have won numerous awards in software development. She is currently working on an app that will help primary school pupils revise for exams without their teachers’ help.

Kenya has proved its competitiveness in technology and innovation as shown by the many successful software and applications developed by students and entrepreneurs.

The talent has boosted confidence in established ICT companies around the world looking for skills.

IBM on Thursday officially announced the close of its Master the Mainframe competition in Nairobi, Kenya and Johannesburg, South Africa.

The competition, which was open to students from universities in both Kenya and South Africa, attracted over 250 entries from students in each country – resulting in one of the highest participation levels seen in the global competition for a countries entering the competition for the first time.

We are impressed by the unprecedented amount of interest in this competition from students in both Kenya and South Africa which speaks to the growing innovative culture in the continent.

In South Africa, Johannes Siecker from FNB Hogan Academy and Rijnard van Tonder from Stellenboch University will represent the country at the global World Cup in New York City on April 7th 2014.

The four African finalists will be the first students from the continent to have ever competed in the global finals of the Master the Mainframe competition, which this year saw some of the highest levels of participation globally.

Out of over 20,000 IBM Master the Mainframe student contestants, just 43 Master the Mainframe regional contest winners that have demonstrated superior programming skills on the mainframe have been selected to compete on the world stage.

Beginning March 10, the elite group of students started to work remotely, receiving training from qualified zEnterprise instructors.

Competitors will learn how to sharpen their enterprise computing skills, learn about advanced development tools, and find out how the platform supports cloud, dig data & analytics, mobile and Security initiatives.

Using that knowledge, the competitors will be tasked to build a business application on the mainframe. Competitors will then travel to New York City to showcase their application to a panel of judges from across the IT industry in New York City on April 7th 2014. Winners will be announced at the IBM Mainframe50 Anniversary event on April 8th 2014.

As a three-part contest which is taking place in a number of countries, Master the Mainframe serves as an introduction to programming and application development and students require no initial mainframe experience to participate.

Through the contest, students learn everything from how to log onto mainframe environments to developing code and problem solving.

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Mr Raphael Laibuni 22, is a third year bachelors of business information technology student, at Strathmore University. PHOTO/JOSHUA MASINDE

Students who enter the competition also have the opportunity to identify job opportunities supporting mainframe environments. To help in this process, IBM has created Systemzjobs.com.

The job board is a resource to link IBM System z clients and partners with students and professionals seeking System z job opportunities and regularly features over 1,000 mainframe-related jobs.

The mainframe computer has been at the centre of the global economy as well as the backbone of most cities infrastructures. Mainframes continue to grow in popularity as the technology evolves, with solutions becoming more open, scalable and secure solutions with new products being developed for cloud, mobile and big data analytics platforms.

The mainframe computers are used in big data environments due to the powerful nature and the growth of big cities and mega projects in Africa will see demand for such technology rise significantly.

The fact that 90 percent of the world’s data has been developed over the past few years will mean that advanced systems such as the mainframe continue to be critical tools of success for businesses, especially for those in growth markets such as Kenya.

The mainframe has been responsible for powering several key advances in technology in Africa. For example, the Ministry of Finance in Senegal brought all of its import and export processes from across the country on-line with System z, and is now recovering 30 per cent of Gross National Product, which amounts to two billion Senegalese francs in customs revenue every day.

Through the process, the Ministry increased the performance of its systems by 70 per cent, reduced power consumption by 20 per cent and cut operating costs by 30 per cent.

Nairobi is currently in process of installing traffic management in the metropolis, with CCTV camera’s and traffic lights at various points in the city to curb security and ease the flow traffic. This kind of infrastructure needs fast and efficient computers and the skills to run them.

They are also used in banking, finance, health care, insurance, utilities, government, and a multitude of other public and private enterprises.

Kenya is in the process of setting up infrastructure such as the Konza Technopolis to support the developing talent and boost employment and productivity. Corporate Kenya is also investing in innovation hubs that are helping to grow talent and marry it to venture capital.

Ms Ondeng encourages other young women to taken on the computing world adding that its nolonger a man’s world.

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