By Vincent Eggs
SITA is implementing a pilot initiative which allows East African students to gain skills, knowledge and practical experience within the Indian ICT industry. Eleven students of various ICT study programmes were chosen to undergo internships in selected IT and IT management companies in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
IT-related courses are popular in East Africa. However, most students lack the opportunity to gain actual work experience, which would give them an advantage when job seeking. India’s IT sector is one of the best in the world and provides the perfect environment for young IT students to gain valuable skills on the ground.
SITA’s Indo-Africa Internship Programme links young East African IT talent with reputable Indian companies who in turn, benefit from the services of high performing IT students. It is hoped that the knowledge and skills learned, and the exposure to new technologies in India through the programme, will be taken back to East Africa to contribute to the growth of vibrant IT sectors and toward the sustainable development of the region.
Since May 2017, 11 high-potential students from East Africa have been placed in Indian companies. SITA aims to ensure that the programme prioritises young women to contribute to closing the gender gap both in the IT industry and across the board. So far, seven of the successful interns are women.
Like with any other competitive internship programme, a long and rigorous selection process took place. In total, 196 students applied. SITA conducted the initial pre-selection based on minimum academic requirements, skills, competencies and availability to see the internship through. The pre-selection narrowed the field to 132 candidates of which, 77 were shortlisted to undergo interviews to assess suitability to the host companies’ requirements. Finally, between one and three candidates were proposed to the companies for each available position. It was then up to the company to decide which, if any, applicant would fill the position. Candidates needed to show that they were the best suited for the position, not only among the programme cohort, but among internship-seekers India-wide. Once a candidate was selected, the SITA team provided an induction to ensure a smooth start to the internship.
I asked four successful candidates about their experiences on the programme.
Ms Ernestine Bukuba Ikirezi from Rwanda, was the first woman to win an internship in India through SITA/ITC support. “I got to know SITA and the internship programme through my Embassy while studying in Udaipur”, Ms. Bukuba explained. “As an intern, I learnt new things and gained new connections but also grew personally from the experience. Working in the web technology team has been the greatest experience ever! My internship experience expanded my horizons and I’m looking forward to using what I’ve learnt in my home country to contribute to strengthening the industry as a strategy to accelerate development. I would encourage my fellow youth to give it a try, and thank the SITA Team for their unceasing efforts, that made this dream come true.”
Mr Cedrick Manirafasha, another talented Rwandan national, interned in an Indian company for four months before being offered a permanent position. As Project Manager, Cedrick gained management skills and experience developing a digital supply chain for a recent project.
“It was a big challenge for me as I was in a new environment with new people,” said Mr. Manirafasha. “I am managing a project in a recently opened branch and part of my job is to continuously check if all hardware equipment, networks, human resources and power are available. I have been undergoing hands on practical experience as well, and I found the internship very helpful in preparing me.” Detailing the takeaways from the internship, Mr. Manirafasha said, “Two things that my mentor taught me which inspired me a lot are: 1. If there is no problem or requirement, then something is wrong in the system. There will always be requirements and challenges; it is up to us to adjust the sail and stop complaining about the wind. 2. For quality check, you are either selected or rejected. If you work on a task, do it with all your heart. This internship had a very big impact on me and it has changed my perspective on how things are done. I am very confident that I can manage any project anywhere now.”
Doreen Aradi a Kenyan IT graduate who started her internship at India’s largest telecom company says, “my internship experience has been nothing but top notch. Working with the software engineering team has helped me gain hands-on experience on different programming languages which has helped me sharpen my programming skills. I have always wanted to own a start-up company in the software engineering field, and this internship will help me take the initial step.”
Rebecca Nampewo from Uganda found the internship experience to be exceptional. “I am learning so much from the hands-on training,” she said. “Working with different programming languages has greatly improved my confidence that I can be anything I want in this tech world. Sharing with people that are doing well in the same field has given me a clearer definition of my career path.”
The cooperation between young high potential East African students, Indian companies and SITA has reinforced the strong and long-term commitment to build skills and technical knowledge among East African women and youth. It has also strengthened a tradition of engagement and cooperation for sustainable development between India and the region.
Stay tuned for more on the Internship Programme with a look inside Indian social enterprise, rural BPO, and one host organisation DesiCrew!