Furthering its commitment to driving education in South Africa, Microsoft has partnered with AI in Townships to realise the DigiGirlz initiative which aims to help talented youth reach their full potential and become the leaders of tomorrow by equipping them with critical skills in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Gugu Motlante delivered an opening address where she applauded the young girls and encouraged them to work hard and go the extra mile. Motlanthe said that education is an equalizer as an enabler for adaptation and even success skills.
“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 Fourth Industrial Revolution and lay the fundamental building blocks to creating an inclusive South Africa,” says Motlante.
The AI in Townships initiative is aimed at girls aged 15 to 18 years old in previously disadvantaged communities to create purposeful, high impact solutions that tackle challenges ranging from community safety to unemployment and education.
“The foundation has invested in and is 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 positive connected and inclusive future in the digital age,” she said.
DigiGirlz, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, gives middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. The initiative aims to transform the future workforce and level the playing field for girls.
“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,” says Lillian Barnard, Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa.
In 2018, AI in Townships worked with young girls in Soweto and in Mitchells Plain from 15 to 17 March 2019. The girls were mentored by leading professionals and entrepreneurs to deliver a stimulating and to discover the possibilities of AI. The bootcamp excites and inspires them to reach their full potential.
Motlante revealed that access to information and technology is identified as one of the largest obstacles facing women and girls in Africa to achieve gender equality and inclusive economic growth. “The girls-only bootcamps attempt to address the systematic exclusion of youth in a variety of 21st-century ideas by providing a powerful platform to acquire new tools and knowledge, bettering their prospects at female digital inclusion and offering a chance to improve the socio-economic future for themselves and communities, she said.”
As the world moves into the digital era it is imperative that South Africa equips its citizens with the necessary skills that will allow them to become more self-reliant, more socially cohesive, and better trained in addressing the fundamental issues of education, health and safety through AI.