IBM's Master The Mainframe Contest Closes In Kenya, South Africa


Held for the first time in Africa, competition attracts record number of participants with four Africans selected for global contest in New York this April

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

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

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. 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.

Two Kenyans, Raphael Kiminya Laibuni from Strathmore University, and Margaret Adhiambo Ondeng from Kenyatta University, emerged overall winners of the Kenyan competition and will join 43 other top students in New York in April to participate in the global finals of the competition.

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, Big 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.

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

IBM’s mainframe 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 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% 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%, reduced power consumption by 20% and cut operating costs by 30%.