Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation opens up technology hub in South Africa

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe and Mrs Gugu Motlanthe at AI in Africa bootcamp for girls in Soweto
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe and Mrs Gugu Motlanthe at AI in Africa bootcamp for girls in Soweto

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for example, has become a major contributor to the success of some of the biggest businesses in the world. The technology has been in development since 2013 and it’s revolutionising the way we live, travel and do business.

When implemented correctly, AI can help to significantly boost social and economic growth. However, it also has its risks; especially when implemented into developing countries such as South Africa.

In celebration of Human Rights Day on 21 March 2019, the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation in partnership with Fliptin, Microsoft and Idea Collective will host “AI in Mitchells Plain” bootcamp from 15 to 17 March 2019 to discover the possibilities of  AI with youth.

Understanding that access to information and technology is a universal human right, these girls-only bootcamps attempt to address the systematic exclusion of youth in a variety of 21st century careers by offering a powerful platform to acquire new tools and knowledge, bettering their prospects at female digital inclusion and subsequently, socio-economic forecast.

As part of a nationwide initiative, “AI in Mitchells Plain” kickstarts the 2019 “AI in Africa” tour across South Africa for girls aged 15 to 18 years old in historically disadvantaged communities to create purposeful, high impact solutions that tackle challenges ranging from community safety to unemployment and education.

The sixty intrepid girls from Beacon Hill High School, Lentegeur Secondary School, Portland High School, Oval North Secondary School and Westridge High School have been selected to learn the concepts and ethics of digital technology and how to apply technology to their daily lives to create solutions for their communities. The three-day exercise will expose these learners to a working environment of cutting-edge technologies including how to build computer chatbots, package their individual tech ideas and solutions, and pitch their innovations to a panel of judges.

Mrs Gugu Motlanthe, Trustee of the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation says, “The Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation places the wellbeing of our nation’s youth at the heart of our work with the belief that equipping learners with 21st century skills will help prepare South Africa for the 4th Industrial Revolution and lay the fundamental building blocks to creating an inclusive society.”

She further adds that, “The Foundation is invested in and committed to creating an environment that boosts access to technology and drives digital literacy – these are the keys to unlocking the potential for our youth to create a positive, connected and inclusive future in the digital age.”

Following the success of the programme with schools in Soweto in 2018, the girls of Mitchells Plain will be mentored by leading professionals and entrepreneurs, led by technology consultancy Fliptin and facilitated by Idea Collective, to deliver a stimulating and challenging series of workshops to excite and inspire the youth to reach their fullest.

Building a legacy for ongoing development in the education of youth is a key pillar in the work of the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation and is a fundamental feature of the AI in Africa bootcamps through the introduction of Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a revolution in traditional thought process and teaching methodology, enabling teachers and learners to explore problems, experiment with solutions and arrive at innovative and responsive designs through an integrated combination of conceptual and applied skills. This prepares teachers and learners to become flexible, problem-solving thinkers outside the boundaries of a single discipline.

Professor Des Laubscher from IDEA (Innovative Design Education Africa) Collective says, “The IDEA Collective’s core purpose is to improve the quality of people’s lives through proactive problem-solving workshops and the creation of appropriate solutions that take cognisance of social, cultural, environmental and economic factors. What better way to expose our youth to problem-solving than to challenge these young girls to embrace the design thinking process during this workshop and then use what they have learned to create meaningful solutions to problems within their communities. The passion and the creativity of the girls is manifested in the amazing results that emulate from this experience, as we have learnt from the previous workshop.”

Lillian Barnard, Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa comments, “We are proud to be involved with such an initiative that aims to harness the STEM skills young girls need to become problem solvers and build successful careers in these fields. The AI revolution has begun in Africa, and it’s going to empower and enable us to do more than ever before. Approximately 80 percent of jobs created in the next ten years will require a blend of science, technology, engineering and maths, but right now only about 30 percent of the science and technology workforce in Africa is comprised of women – indicating a massive gap that urgently needs to be addressed.”

Mustapha Zaouini, Technology and Innovation at Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation and CEO of Fliptin comments, “Connecting the participants with leading thinkers, who position ethical and sustainable learning in the centre of the education process, unlocks the power of technology. Through these bootcamps, we aim to cause a major mind-set change in the girls, which is fused with the tools to implement new ideas leveraging the technology of tomorrow; a potent combination that capacitates a lifelong way of thinking for success.”

Absa’s WorkInProgress innovation lab and Old Mutual will provide the venues for the workshops. “This is exactly why WorkInProgress exists – we host events like these to encourage, promote and facilitate the kind of learning and collaboration that give rise to new technology-based ideas and developments that can make a real difference in the everyday lives of people,” said Charmaine Lambert, head of WorkInProgress – an Absa innovation lab.

Old Mutual CIO, Johnson Idesoh is confident that the “AI in Mitchells Plain” project will spark real interest in IT as a career option among the young learners attending. “Raising the number of female IT professionals in the country is a vital step towards creating greater gender equality, and promoting a strong and diverse digital foundation,” he says. “Old Mutual is committed to building the skills that will grow our economy, and strengthening future capacity in IT is key.”

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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