[Deadline Extended] Request For Proposals: Consultancy Services in evaluating existing educational initiatives in the area of ICT and developing a road map of activities/actions

Request for Proposals (RFP)

RFP Number: ICTEC-2019-005
Issuance Date: 12.07.2019
Deadline for Offers: 31.07.2019 
Deadline extended: 15.08.2019

Deadline extended: 06.09.2019

Description:             Consultancy Services in evaluating existing educational initiatives in the area of ICT and developing a roadmap of activities/actions
For:                          Moldova ICT Excellence Center Project
Funded By:              United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Government of Sweden, Contract No. AID-117-A-15-00002
Issued By:               National Association of ICT Companies (ATIC)
Point of Contact:      achirita@ict.md, contact person Ana Chirita

Please find the full RFP here.

SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION AND INSTRUCTIONS TO OFFERORS

1.1 Acronyms and Definitions

ATIC National Association of ICT Companies
ADS USAID Automated Directives System
CFR United States Code of Federal Regulations
Cooperating Country Moldova
FAR United States Federal Acquisition Regulation
RFP Request for Proposals
US United States
USAID United States Agency for International Development
USG United States Government
VAT Value Added Tax

1.2 Introduction

The National Association of ICT Companies (ATIC) is soliciting proposals from eligible and responsible firms to offer consulting services in evaluating existing educational initiatives in the area of ICT and developing a roadmap of activities/actions as described in details in the Annex 1.

Tekwill has been designed as a national public-private partnership between the Government of Moldova, USAID, Microsoft, and IBM to answer the needs of the ICT industry to close the gap of the human capital shortage, as well as support the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. 
The first phase of the project represented a USAID grant for Development matched by both cash and in-kind contributions of private and government partners that brought significant new resources, ideas, software, technologies and development activities, such as trainings, practical assignments, and mentorship. Private partners included multinational companies, IBM and Microsoft, but also Information Technology and Communications Association (ATIC) members that are local Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies, while among government partners Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure, Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, e-Government Center and Technical University have provided their support. The Technical University of Moldova is hosting the first Center on its premises and has jointly invested resources for initial investment and maintenance costs during the startup phase.

On September 19, 2017 USAID/Moldova has entered into a partnership with the Government of Sweden to join forces in the establishment and creation of the ICT Excellence Center (Tekwill). It included an arrangement that governs the relationship between the Parties regarding the financing, implementation and reporting of the activity.

Tekwill was inaugurated on March 15, 2017. During the 3 years of implementation (as the project was fully operational even before the official launch of the Tekwill center), Tekwill project completed or supported 188 educational initiatives, and 301 entrepreneurship initiatives, transforming Tekwill into one of the most successful initiatives in tech in Moldova and in the region. It has helped over 350 teams to reach better business, create opportunities and seek investment. Altogether it trained and oriented over 35,000 people.

The next phase of the project is envisaged to fortify the existing Tekwill’s capacity, create linkages with other universities and expand the activities to a national level. New activities are planned to transform Tekwill into a strategic focal point for Moldova in relation to boosting creativity, innovation and growth in the ICT sector. Several more universities are seeking to be part of this initiative, which involves private sector and development partners in modernization of the curricular content, as well as the Ministry of Education is opened to promote the optional programs developed by Tekwill to be accessible in schools under a ”Tekwill in every school” program. Each program will be designed and developed being adapted to the context of the region, school, university involved in the process. The programs will be all inclusive aiming at involving different target groups such as children, women, students, etc.

The initial goal of the project is to contribute to the extension of the Tekwill project as a sustainable network and deploy its programs on regional/national level. The project aims at determining the operation model of the network, determining business plans for the relevant created centers or partners in the regions, deploy scalable activities to connect an estimated of 150,000 people to ICT (school and university students, community, etc.), deploy entrepreneurship programs aiming at both scaling up existing programs, as well as create inclusive innovation platforms for the regions with their respective specifics and potential to absorb/apply ICT. We envision a minimum 10,000 beneficiaries/year for each direction (education and entrepreneurship) As a result of the project, 2 main outcomes of the project are expected: more and better qualified skills and workforce developed leading to a stronger ICT industry in Moldova, as well as creating the premises for a Startup Moldova program driving opportunities for companies seeking capitalization.

The overarching goal of the Tekwill as a network is to ensure maximum impact on Moldova’s economy though enhancing the entrepreneurial and educational capacity, as well as Research&Development potential of the higher education institutions in line with the industry needs; hence achieving quantitative and qualitative increase in qualified ICT professionals and ICT skills and nurturing successful technology startups based on modern ecosystem and world-class sales and marketing force. The project will expand the current areas of cooperation and continue to contribute to growing competitiveness of the ICT industry and of other economic sectors on a national level.

The project aims to:
1. Mitigate the human capital gap identified as the major problem for the ICT sector
2. Expand successful Tekwill programs into the regions
3. Impact the IT related educational system by contributing at nurturing STEM education
4. Develop curricular and extracurricular educational programs to be adopted nationwide in partnership with leading private ICT Companies
5. Assess the existing startup ecosystem and improve its investment opportunities
6. Create linkages between ICT and non ICT businesses
7. Provide support to projects/startups in assessing the global market
8. Create premises for favorable investment instruments such as seed funding, acceleration programs, venture funding, etc
9. Encourage and support tech community events
10. Get affiliated to international hubs, innovation centers, camps (such as Google campus, Station F, etc).).Empower women/girls to participate in ICT educational programs and entrepreneurial activitiesprovide access to Tekwill content and programs for talented kids from underserved and remote areas, supporting career orientation, STEM educational programs, etc.

1.3 Questions and Requests for Clarifications

Questions regarding the technical or administrative requirements of this RFP may be submitted no later than July 20, 2019, 18:00 local Chisinau time by email to achirita@ict.md, cc cdamaschin@ict.md. Questions must be submitted in writing; phone calls will not be accepted. Questions and requests for clarification—and the responses thereto—that ATIC believes may be of interest to other offerors will be circulated to all RFP recipients who have indicated an interest in bidding.

Only the written answers issued by ATIC will be considered official and carry weight in the RFP process and subsequent evaluation. Any verbal information received from employees of ATIC or any other entity should not be considered as an official response to any questions regarding this RFP.

1.4 Offer Deadline

Offerors shall submit their expression of interest to participate and propose offers until July 31, 2019 via e-mail to cdamaschin@ict.md, cc achirita@ict.md.
Offerors shall submit their offers in hard-copy and/or electronically.

Hard-copy offers must be received no later than July 31, 2019, 17:00 at the following address: 
In attention of Mrs. Ana Chirita,
Strategic Projects Director
Str. Studentilor 9/11

Emailed offers must be received by the same time and date at the following address:
In attention of Mrs. Ana Chirita, 
Strategic Projects Director
achirita@ict.md, cc 
Corina Damaschin, cdamaschi@ict.md (Project Assistant)
Offerors are responsible for ensuring that their offers are received in accordance with the instructions stated herein. Late offers may be considered at the discretion of ATIC. 
 

ANNEX 1: DETAILED SPECIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS

Background:

As a continuation of existing activities, Tekwill in Chisinau and the satelites/partners/ or as defined by the conducted assessments, will focus both on technical and soft skills. It will continue the existing partnerships with Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, PMI and others, as well as establish new partnerships with the aim to bring the best curricula from top international vendors, top international universities and partner organizations. It will create a bridge between the universities and the Moldovan IT labor market to offer access to education to the students in order to meet industry needs. It will also focus on life-long learning for professionals who want to deepen their knowledge and/or receive certain certifications and qualifications as such.

The educational directions will focus on:
• providing a range of training courses in modern IT topics, as required by industry. Courses will be at different levels, short and long-term, full time and part-time, depending on market needs.
• Determining fellowship professor programs as part of the existing university courses and curricula
• providing transverse (or personal or “soft”) skills, eg English language, communications, presentation skills, team-work, entrepreneurship, etc integrated in optional Kids academy programs, Tekwill in every school, and stand alone programs
• Certification will be offered, both as an adjunct to the training courses, and independently. Certification is a growing requirement of advanced western markets.
• Curricula development. The Center will continue to collaborate with the Universities on updating curricula. It is expected that courses on newer topics will progressively move into mainstream Bachelors and Masters degree courses.
• Professional development of lecturers. The Center will provide update training in new topics (and new teaching methods) for university and industry lecturers with a range of train-the-trainer courses.
• Career Orientations. The efforts towards promoting a carer in ICT by delivering inspirational presentations, as well as advice to students and graduates on opportunities in the industry will be continued
• Internships. Alongside this careers role, the Center will explore the possibility of either training the capacity of universities, and other educational institutions to attract and manage internship programs, or provide assistance towards career guidance and further possible career tracking. 
Students and university professors will benefit of special conditions to participate in the programs.

Tekwill seeks to translate most of its programs:
• Kids academy
• Career Orientation Programs
• Tekwill Academy for teachers and for university professors
• Tekwill Academy programs with international course providers and certifications based on industry needs (Java, Cisco, PMP, Agile, etc)
• Marketing campaigns
• Community programs

For each of the above either private or NGO partners will be selected to enhance competitiveness and sustainability.

Targets to be reached:

As a next phase of the project, the already existing assistance will expand towards:
a) Business development in minimum 3 different locations outside Chisinau and potentially 3 locations in Chisinau as part of private-public partnership
b) Deploy education for additional 10,000 people/year
c) Deployment of digital content available to min 100,000 people
d) Assisting a min of 100 startups in raising resources and funds for their business/year
e) Expanding entrepreneurial education programs for minimum 5,000 beneficiaries/year

Details about existing programs run under Tekwill and/or ATICumbrella:

On June 14, ATIC and Tekwill have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure and Ministry of Education, Research and Culture to align efforts on promoting digital education in every school in Moldova through the TwentyTU program and digital curricula promoted by the Government.

Initially, TwentyTU was envisioned to deliver alternative courses, free of charge, for 65,000 children (7-13 y.o.) and 15,000 teenagers (15-19 y.o), that is a total of 80,000 – every 4th pupil in Moldova. The whole activity aims at extending Tekwill activities beyond Tekwill walls and reforming STEM education system. This is one of the main objectives of the signed Memorandum and industry together with the Government declared their support for the Tekwill initiative.

The courses were selected based on the current roster of courses available at Tekwill Academy Kids. In addition to this, we have added courses that will grow skills relevant to 21st century and beyond , such as Artificial Intelligence, Entrepreneurship and Emotional Intelligence (Personal Development).

Courses will be delivered online and offline:
- Online. Online courses will be structure in 30 sessions of approximately 15 minutes each. All the courses will be integrated into one software that will be available online.
- Offline. In order to receive a complete certificate of completion, beneficiaries will have to attend at least one 90-minute offline workshop. The workshops will take place simultaneously across the country in 1-2 days, and we will call them “TwentyTu Walk-In Day”. Although it would not be mandatory for beneficiaries to attend the workshops, their certificate of completion will receive a lower categorization should they not do that.
Digital Education for first grade students:

On September 7, 2018, ATIC in partnership with Tekwill and Government of Moldova has launched the initiative of digital education in every first grade, by providing access to equipment and curricula to all first grade students, while the Government of Moldova has introduced the curricula as mandatory under the Technological Education module and made it available to apr. 30,000 children in its first year. The Government of Moldova has prior expressed the interest to continue the module in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade, thus contributing to Digital Moldova 2020 strategy.

Robotics program:
The robotics program has been implemented by ATIC in partnership with the Moldova Competitiveness Project funded by USAID and Government of Sweden since May 2016.

The overall objectives of the program are:

  • • Introduce teenagers to programming, robotics and engineering in a way adapted to their age and mindset.
    • Inspire children to pursue careers in technology and engineering;
    • Ignite students' engagement and energize learning through real-life problem solving;

To date achievements:

  • • Robotics program is implemented in 121 educational institutions;
    • Over 15 000 pupils were involved in robotics activities, as extracurricular activities or optional curricular courses, in the period 2014-2019;
    • Over 240 teachers are involved in teaching robotics;
    • The technologies used for teaching robotics: LEGO Mindstorms EV3, Makeblock (mBot), LEGO WeDo 2.0.

Tekwill Academy:

Tekwill Academy represents the training arm developed under Tekwill project to respond to the needs of the private ICT Sector in closing the human capital gap by providing world class education through viable partnerships with leading world education providers such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, PMI, ISTQB and other. The model applied is to deliver educational services on a fee basis towards people who would like to change their profile or acquire additional skills. Often the courses end up with an internationally recognized certification. During the last 2 years, a total more than 1000 people received education in this sense. The operated model includes representatives of the private sector as mentors, trainers or supervisors.

Reference to other programs:

Tekwill Academy Kids:

Developed as a need to equip the new generations with critical skills (creativity, algorithmic thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills), Tekwill Academy Kids operates as a stand alone organization on a cooperation model to use the provided Tekwill branding on a fee basis and contractual arrangements.

There are 14 courses developed under the program and provided on a fee basis to interested beneficiaries. An average 500 children attend the courses on a monthly basis in the areas of Robotics, Arduino, Web Development, Design, etc.

Partnerships for Quality and Relevance in ICT Vocational Education in Moldova:

Project implemented during December 2015- December 2018 by ATIC and ProDidactica addressing the improvement of the quality of vocational education in Moldova
The activities coordinated by ATIC were focused on addressing the skills of the teachers, adjusting the existing curricula to market needs, provide and improve internship programs, raising the capacity of VET teachers by organizing ToT trainings, Soft Skills trainings, etc; developing electronic tools for the management of the institutions, increasing awareness of VET specialties, involve students in ICT Career orientation campaigns, etc. During the program the Center for Excellence in IT (Colegiul de Informatica) has been endowed with new uptodate relevant for the studies and meeting market needs equipment.
Support has been provided in the following training areas: Java, Cisco, Project Management, Communication, Web Development, etc. 
Overall around 1500 VET students and over 200 VET tachers benefited from the support during the program.
Relevant documents to the assignment, but not limited to:
IT Development Strategy approved in September 2018 by the Government of Moldova
Digital Moldova 2020
Moldovan IT Players priming for Worldwide presence, developed by IDC with the support of the Moldova Competitiveness Project, financed by USAID and Government of Sweden
ICT education in Moldova: connecting to the needs of industry, developed with the support of CEED II project, financed by USAID

Mapping of existing initiatives developed by UNDP (will be provided upon reques)

ATIC/Tekwill yearly reports

Other initiatives/reports could/should be taken into consideration
ASSIGNMENT:

Responsible companies/individuals are invited to provide consulting services in evaluating existing educational initiatives in the area of ICT and developing a roadmap of activities/actions that would answer the following aspects:

Industry perspective:
1. The IT industry is struggling to get sufficient well trained labor force on a yearly basis that would meet market needs.
2. The minimum expected growth of IT specialists per year should reach a number of 1000 people, while the employability should grow up to 80-90%.
3. The best school graduates leave the country for better studies, while the trained in house specialists by the companies or existing training centers leave the country on an average 3-5 years after getting employed. 
4. The annual rate of employee turnover in IT companies is 10-20% and 80% of it relates to emigration.
5. The desired growth of the industry should reach a minimum $500 USD export and sales.

General perspectives:

  • • ICT is a trend to be acquired from early ages and become a critical skill in the future. STEM or science only, is being seen as something separate from all other subjects or disciplines in education, disconnected from people’s lives beyond school, however really important for acquiring inclusive, but not limited to IT skills. It has been proven that science influences all parts of our lives and our decision-making processes. Along with language and artistic literacy, knowledge of science and mathematics is the basis for personal accomplishment and responsible citizenship, social and economic development and a benchmark of innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness in our global world . Therefore STEM ensures that important scientific, mathematical, technological and engineering linked concepts and practices are understood and applied in an interdisciplinary manner. This shows that these concepts and practices are founded on STEM principles and ideas that can be applied from various angles. STEM is oriented towards innovation: it responds to current challenges and looks for innovative and creative solutions through the interconnected STEM components .
    • Digital skills (operation and use level) are inevitable in the future. Based on European Union studies, More than one third of Europeans in the active labour force do not have basic digital skills, even though most jobs require at least basic digital skills, and only 31% possess advanced internet user skills. At the same time, there is an increased demand for advanced digital skills across the economy, with employment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) specialists growing by 2 million over the last 5 years in the EU. Based on the
    • IDC study mentioned above, for the forecast period of 2019-2024, the combined market is estimated to record a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7,86%, reaching $262,26 million in 2024.
    • There are various efforts done in Moldova to address the issue of digital and IT skills gap, however there are no coagulated efforts at this moment. Most of the initiatives are pilots, and very seldom they reach a national growth.
    • In order to learn, one the key methods is learning by doing. It is extremely important that all institutions are technology friendly at all stages and provide access to technology, not only learning environments, combining theoretical with practical experiences at various levels.

The current assignment is looking to address the above-mentioned issues, but not limit itself to it:
• conduct a thorough research on international experience in similar countries such as Armenia, Georgia, Albania, Kosovo as developing countries, as well as Sweden, Estonia, Finland, etc as world known success examples; 
• create a vision related to worldwide experiences in a) introducing digital skills as a must b) nurturing tech skills to meet market needs c) create demand for IT related solutions introduced in education
• evaluate existing educational initiatives and their business models on the market provided by donor community, private sector and the Government together or on a separate basis 
• conduct interviews with the main stakeholders on the market, including private companies, implementing agencies, government, educational institutions representatives, donors, or civil society
• based on the findings of the interviews and evaluation, propose a roadmap for improving the situation of IT skills gap in Moldova, as well as acquiring digital skills at various levels
• Propose continue, merge existing initiatives or access new interventions by evaluating efficiency, effectiveness, impact, cost, available resources under a roadmap for better IT skills in accordance with EU and world trends
• Deliver a report that will be used by ATIC in its implementation of extending existing programs or define new initiative for a national reach out
• Validate proposed concepts with the main stakeholders

Deliverables:
• Presentation of the methodology. Detailed framework/design, implementation plan and data collection tools 
• Propose list of countries to be assessed (not limited or necessarily taking as examples the ones mentioned above)
• Schedule of interviews an average of 40 interviews are expected to be organized
• Interview rough data including name, profile of the interviewed stakeholder, summary of the conclusion, 
• Structure of the proposed report 
• Inception report (5-10 pages)
• Full .doc, .docx report with annexes in English (and Romanian)
• Short report / executive summary (should summarize key findings and recommendations (5-7 pages) and needs to be submitted as part of the final report) in English and Romanian
• Public presentation
• Other that may be required.

The assignment is expected to commence no later than 10 days after signing the contract.

The proposals of each interested company/individual consultant should include:

  • • Timeframe and schedule of proposed implemented actions
    • CV of key people working on the assignment
    • Technical approach to complete the assignment
    • Potential entry points/questionnaires to complete the assignment

Best candidates should demonstrate:

  • • Prior experience in IT, development, economic backgrounds
    • Good understanding of the IT ecosystem and educational IT initiatives in the country
    • Relevant international expertise will be considered a plus
    • Fluency in all three Romanian, Russian and English will be considered a plus
    • Prior and relevant expertise/knowledge in investments projects (if physical infrastructure will be chosen as an impact component of the future assignment)



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