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Carnegie Mellon Developing Vendor-Neutral Cert Exam for Kenyan Coders

Carnegie Mellon University is working with the government of Kenya to develop a certification exam that aims to prove the expertise of the African country's software developers and help potential employers identify candidates with the right skills. With time the test may become available worldwide.

The new Software Developer Certification will test people on the kinds of tasks they actually encounter on the job by having them add software features, find and fix bugs in the code, and make modifications to existing code.

Multiple credentialing programs already exist for software engineers. But this is one of the few that will be vendor-neutral in its selection of programming language and professional tools and won't require an advanced degree. The university gave no timeline for its broader release of the certification exam beyond Kenya.

Development of the exam is being undertaken by Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science.

"Our challenge is to identify the general skills that software developers must have and then develop model software systems that will enable us to evaluate those skills during an exam," said Randal Bryant, dean of the school and one of the researchers developing the certification. "We also must make certain that the exam remains up to date and affordable."

The pilot of the exam is expected to be ready by March 2013, and the certification should be operational in Kenya by October 2013.

The project, named, "Chipuka," a Swahili word meaning "to emerge" or "to spring forth," is being undertaken on behalf of Kenya's Transparency and Communications Infrastructure Project (KTCIP). Funded by the World Bank, the project's goal is to make trained workers available to the country's growing information and communications technology (ICT) segment and its financial services sector. Kenya is hoping that the new credential will signal to the global outsourcing industry that it could be a source of well trained IT workers.

"Software engineering holds great promise for our economy, hence our choice to invest in certifying our youth so they can take advantage of the emerging opportunities," said Paul Kukubo, CEO of the Kenya ICT Board. "Kenya's ambitions with this project are to be the leading software development center in Africa and a significant global software player by engaging our latent intellectual capital."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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