Power to the innovation economy

Yashin Abed

Many leading education institutions, media houses and political parties represent South Africa as a country on a precipice.

Depending on your take, South Africa could either fall into the chasm of despair or rise and take its place as a success story of a country transitioning into a better future.

All of us, as beneficiaries of this economy, have two options:

1. We can remain observers and watch as others negotiate the obstacles to success and lead us to either despair or glory.

2. Or we can become active participants who determine the road map to success and leap over the obstacles towards a future that we can all be proud of.

African Teen Geeks (ATG) is a nonprofit organisation that embraces the option to create a vision of a successful country and head towards such a vision with all its partners.

ATG has recognised that education is a critical hurdle that we must overcome, and is partnering with the department of basic education and corporates such as Standard Bank to find creative ways to realise an inclusive and innovative future for our children.

Within most successful innovation companies and economies, there is a culture in education that understands that information technology and computer science are basic human needs, and so learning these disciplines is integrated as a core subject within those countries’ education systems.

Like these countries and economies, we must strive to move away from a labour economy and head towards an innovation economy. Like ATG, we must all work together to realise South Africa’s potential to become the US’s Silicon Valley of Africa.

The problem that needs to be overcome is that 80% of pupils in our education system do not get the right exposure to leadership, teaching, facilities and resources to make this transition a reality.

While ATG works with the department of basic education to get computer science (programming) into the education system from Grade 1, corporate partnerships, such as the Standard Bank Geek Girl programme, ensure that the problem is tackled on multiple fronts to maximise success.

This programme identifies female pupils from the public schooling system (the 80%), and then, over a three-year period, funds their teaching and training around Java programming, as well as providing mentorship and guidance for them to become our future leaders.

The final stage is to host hackathons and other events to nurture their creativity and help them to turn the concepts they’ve learnt into solutions for problems in the real world.

The long-term vision – and hope – is that similar partnerships will occur across the private and public sector. Not for corporate social investment points, but rather so that these partners come together to effectively build an innovative economy for us all.

Globally and locally, we are moving away from a future where most people will work for established companies to one where they will create their own companies and products.

Providing teachers in the public school system with the right skill sets to lead their charges into this future is paramount, as is ensuring that computer science is front and centre in the schooling system.

We must not squander the vast human capital we have by not adapting to a world forever altered by technology.

Every child could potentially be the one who imagines a new future, so every child must be given the opportunity to wield the tools of the knowledge economy.

– Abed is the head of business service management, group technology operations at Standard Bank

– This article is part of a series supported by Africa Teen Geeks

Leave your comment