As 2019 opens up, we need to take stock and see what kind of ICT skills would be in high demand.
At a global level, the 2018 ICT buzzwords like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain will continue to inform skills required through out the the new year.
But what does all this mean from our regional and local context?
When you fire up your online taxi app and it tells you how long your trip is likely to take relies on certain aspects of AI & Big Data.
When you apply for some loan from one of the many mobile-money lenders, they would use some form of AI & Big Data to determine your credit worthiness in the absence of any collateral.
Increasingly, many routine functions across different sectors in finance, health, agriculture, education, transport, manufacturing and others are going to mainstream AI & Big data analytics into their operations.
What this means is that AI & Big Data experts are going to be in high demand over the next couple of years.
Next is Cloud Computing skills.
Many local and regional enterprises are beginning to embrace cloud computing and its technologies.
In its simplest form, cloud computing outsources some functions of the ICT department – along the same spirit that many organizations outsourced security, catering or cleansing services.
For example, many organisations have their websites or email services hosted in the cloud and subsequently avoid frequent downtimes that would arise if these services were hosted in-house.
Perhaps more importantly, these organisations also avoid capital expenses that arise in having to buy and maintaining hardware servers in-house. They instead lease server capacity in the cloud on a pay-per-use basis.
As enterprises seek to cut down operational costs, migrating ICT services to the cloud has become an increasingly attractive option in the recent years. And with that, cloud related skills have also soured up in demand.
These skills would include the ability to re-design the traditional enterprise applications and redeploy them into the cloud. Cloud providers are also keen to hire those with the ability to orchestrate and maintain cloud applications and resources within their Data Centers.
As mobile 4G networks continue to expand their geographic reach, we expect Internet of Things (IoT) applications to come of age.
IoT simply means embedding computing devices or sensors within the environment and having them communicate directly with each other - with minimal or no human intervention.
Self-driving cars are the most experimented aspect of this IoT phenomenon. However, other use cases such as smart metering applications are already locally available in various forms.
They include consumer wearable devices that measure and record your heart rate as you workout in the gym or the pre-paid tokens that control your power or water consumption.
Already IoT devices have been deployed in advanced economies to automatically measure and control air pollution, energy consumption, vehicular traffic, green houses and many other ‘smart city’ or ‘smart society’ applications.
These applications are likely to come home near you sooner than you think making those already equipped with IoT skills to be in high demand.
Next is Blockchain skills.
In its simplest form, Blockchain technology is a new way of record keeping that increases the accuracy and reliability of a record - by decentralising the trust function across multiple actors.
Instead of trusting and mandating a single entity to keep proper records, Blockchain technology uses algorithms to verify and validate record keeping through automated, distributed consensus.
How to redesign current enterprise systems and redeploy them under a Blockchain framework is likely to be a highly sought after skill – both locally and internationally.
Blockchain Architects, Blockchain Developers and Blockchain Operators are also going to be in high demand in 2019 and beyond.
Implicitly and underpinning all these new skills is the need for data privacy and information security. As the economy gets more and more digitized, cyber security skills will be required across the different skill sets.
ICT students and professionals have an array of skills to choose from in order to participate and fast track Kenya to the next level. The question is, are they ready to learn?
Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu