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Makerere Incubation Centre could be a Regional Software provider PDF Print E-mail

By Edris Kisambira

Last month, Makerere University unveiled 25 software projects developed under a new initiative, the National Software Incubation Centre (NSIC).

The Rockefeller Foundation funded project, was started last year after realizing a shortage in human resource of software developers in Uganda against a growing number of graduates from the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (FCIT) at Makerere.

The incubation centre, which is housed at Makerere, is the first of its kind at any university campus in East Africa.

With a $ 300,000 seed grant from the Foundation, 100 young IT graduates embarked on 25 software projects that are custom-designed for the Ugandan market.

“ The opportunities for software development in Uganda are huge. The success of this pioneer group of incubatees should open up a lot of doors and bring software outsourcing work here,” said Michael Niyitegeka, a lecturer at the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at Makerere.

Niyitegeka expects the market from neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and southern Sudan to sustain the project beyond the seed grant.

“The incubation center has been a whole new and learning experience for me,” said Halim Chongomweru, one of the 100 developers. “As a fresh graduate in Computer Science, with no working experience, this should lead me to greater opportunities as I have attained insight into clients’ expectations.”

Some of the 25 software tools developed were a hotel reservation system, a centralized procurement system, a real estate management and maintenance system, a Bluetooth social network tool, an asset management system and a human resource/payroll system.

The students also developed a university electronic directory, an inventory management tool, translated the Mozilla Firefox browser into a local language, a mobile instant messenger, an iLab system (e-library system) and an e-government implementation tool for local governments.

The electronic directory was tailor-designed for Makerere, an online information system, which reveals student and lecturers biodata. Presently, access to personal contacts of anyone at the university is still done manually.

The group members who created the software said the objective was to create and develop an online information system that registers and provides access to data on university students, lecturers, staff and departments with contact details.

According to Niyitegeka, NSCI will offer government an opportunity to tap into it to develop local software in indigenous languages to push development projects.

But this will require a deliberate policy that will enable the development and growth of a software industry like has been the case in India. Already, a number of big companies in the technology sector like Google and IBM have expressed interest to work with the faculty and its incubation centre.

 

At this point in time, India is largely the source of software for big technology companies in the US, Europe and Asia. But it is becoming expensive, which opens a window of opportunity for aspiring software developing countries like Uganda.

The challenge ahead though is lack of investors willing to put their money into developing software like has been the case in the US and India.

 

 

 

 

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