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May the 4th Industrial Revolution Leave No Child Behind

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Chumisa Ndlazi

Last month I had the pleasure of attending SciFest Africa Festival which is now on its 23rd year running. The event which is an initiative of the Grahamstown foundation is aimed at promoting the public awareness, understanding and appreciation for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Learners from all around Eastern Cape, private and public schools ranging from grade 4 – 12 attended the festival all in the quest to learn something new and exciting about what the world of STI has to offer.

As one of the exhibitors showcasing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR’s) 3D printing capability – which forms part of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), I had the opportunity to engage with some of the learners and educators. While engaging with the learners, I noticed that there’s a difference between learners who were in the private school system, former model c and the township or rural public school system and I wondered, during these exciting times of 4IR, who would get the short end of the stick?

When showcasing our technologies to a young audience, we use an interactive approach by running quiz competitions, games and as part of the SciFest programme, we sometimes host workshops too. However, this year, we focused more on quiz competitions and this is where I began to observe the differences. The private school learners who came to our exhibition stand, could recognise 3D printed objects from afar. Quite often, we would be met with enthusiastic comments like: “This is 3D printing right? My dad has one too but it prints plastic objects” or “This is so cool, we learnt about 3D printing in class and we also went on a field trip.” When it came to asking questions, they answered with confidence and those who were not sure, were not afraid to ask questions. They were simply excited to learn more and throughout, they engaged with confidence whether they answered correctly or not.

The former model c school learners who visited our exhibition stand knew of the 3D printing concept. They understood its application in the health and housing sector and so they also answered the questions with confidence  but, they had never seen or touched a 3D printer, they simply had a good theoretical understanding of it whereas, private school learners had been exposed to both. Learners from township and rural schools on the one hand said that they have never heard of 3D printing or seen a 3D printer. So, we had to introduce the concept by making reference to everyday examples such as the process of how a normal printer would work – which they understood very well, especially when the concept was explained in isiXhosa.

I also noticed that when the concept of 3D printing and 4IR was being explained in English, they eyes wondered and we somehow lost their interest but, when we switched to isiXhosa and we aligned these concepts to everyday things which they have seen or experienced, they were more willing to express themselves freely and ask questions.

Another observation I made throughout the year last year, was that most of the school tour visits I received largely came from private or former model c schools in the Gauteng region. Rarely did I receive requests from township and/or rural schools. It then dawned on me that for schools where affordability, access to facilities and the internet is not an issue, class work and fieldwork learning is being integrated as part of everyday learning.

However, for learners who struggle to access the internet, don’t have a family member that owns a technology piece like a 3D printer and cannot afford to travel to facilities like the CSIR to learn about cool technologies that contribute towards 4IR, they are ultimately left behind. Over and above the lack of exposure, the one subject that most people perceive to be intimidating is being communicated in a language that is not their own using concepts they have never heard of or seen before.

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A report on Education in South African Rural Communities done by the Nelson Mandela Foundation states that out of South Africa’s 11.4 million learners, 2.6 million are in KwaZulu-Natal, 2.0 million are in the Eastern Cape and 1.7 million are in Limpopo. The remaining provinces have far smaller learner populations. Levels of adult illiteracy and youth unemployment are also highest in these three provinces. Further, according to a study published by Brand South Africa, the quality of education for most black children is poor. In poorer communities, schools are still substandard, access to electricity and sanitation is still a problem. Textbooks are not delivered and teachers are not motivated and well-supported.

Additionally, poor communities cannot support their schools and school governing bodies to the same extent as wealthier communities. In this report, it is also noted that while socioeconomic conditions of learners constrain learning achievement, it is clear that in South Africa, unequal schooling also aggravates socioeconomic disadvantage, rather than mitigate it.

This realisation left me feeling concerned because when I connected the dots post-observation, I wondered who would then be in a better position to take full advantage of 4IR? Would it not be the child that has access to information and the financial resources to experience education outside of the classroom?In part 2, I’ll explore possible solutions to establishing a relatable and accessible approach to communicating 4IR.

 

Author: Chumisa Ndlazi (Communications Professional)

Technology

Lersha Showcases Innovation and Collaboration at GITEX Africa 2024

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Lersha, a one-stop digital platform, recently participated in GITEX Africa 2024, an event celebrated for its networking and exposure opportunities within the tech ecosystem. The event proved to be a platform for Lersha to engage with industry stakeholders, forge strategic partnerships, and showcase its commitment to driving innovation in Africa.

Embracing the theme of innovation and investment, Lersha navigated the vibrant tech landscape of Africa with strategic objectives and meticulous preparation. The event provided a conducive environment for Lersha to foster cross-border collaborations, exchange insights with startups, and explore investment opportunities, contributing to the advancement of African innovation.

Reflecting on the experience, Satta Abraham, Strategy and Growth Lead at Lersha, remarked, “GITEX Africa was an invaluable opportunity for us to connect with industry leaders, exchange ideas, and establish meaningful partnerships. We are excited to harness these connections to drive forward African innovation and empower communities.”

One of the highlights of the event was the productive engagement with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) team. Lersha’s Strategic and Growth Lead participated in insightful discussions, exploring avenues for collaboration and growth over dinner.

Furthermore, Lersha actively contributed to the panel discussion on “Agtech for Financial Inclusion,” where its Strategy & Growth Lead shared key insights on leveraging AgTech to promote financial inclusion in Africa. This discussion underscored Lersha’s commitment to utilizing technology to address pressing challenges in the agricultural sector and enhance financial accessibility for all stakeholders.

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In addition to participating in panel discussions, Lersha showcased its digital solutions alongside other innovative startups, demonstrating its role in shaping the future of Africa’s digital landscape. From cutting-edge technology to groundbreaking ideas, reaffirming its dedication to driving positive change through innovation and collaboration.

As Lersha continues to expand its footprint in Africa, the company remains committed to leveraging technology to empower communities, drive economic growth, and foster sustainable development across the continent.

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Technology

Ark-x: Revolutionizing Tech Talent

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Ark-x is committed to accelerating the Moroccan and African tech ecosystems by ensuring the availability and competitiveness of tech talent through agile, scalable, upskilling, and reskilling solutions. This effort is part of the broader JOBINTECH project, a government-sponsored program.

Founded in 2019, Ark-x has been pivotal in addressing the disparity in access to skilled jobs in Morocco. The “Talent Factory” offers comprehensive training programs designed to transform potential candidates into job-ready professionals, ready to meet industry demands.

“Our mission is to unlock the potential of individuals and organizations through competency-based talent solutions,” said Hamza DEBBARH, Founder and CEO of Ark-x. “With advancements in AI, robotics, and IoT, it’s crucial to equip our workforce with the necessary skills to lead in this new era.”

Key Challenges Addressed:

  • Skill Gap: Rapid technological advancements have created a mismatch between available skills and industry needs.
  • Talent Shortage: Companies struggle to find qualified entry-level developers.
  • Economic Impact: Underutilization of local talent hampers economic growth and innovation.

Solutions Provided:

  • Skills-based Training: Comprehensive bootcamps focusing on in-demand tech skills.
  • Career Coaching: Workshops to enhance soft skills and job readiness.
  • Industry Partnerships: Collaborations with leading tech companies for real-world project experience.

Outcomes:

  • 1000 Careers Accelerated: With a goal to accelerate 10,000 careers by marrying scalability with adaptability.
  • 90% Placement Rate: High success rate of graduates securing positions in top tech firms.
  • 95% Recruiter Satisfaction: Achieved through a recruiter-centric approach engaging recruiters early in the program engineering phase and throughout the talent journey.
  • 89% Trainee Satisfaction: Through experiential learning, real-world problem solving, and expert coaching, delivering a transformative, individualized experience.

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Our commitment to excellence has been recognized by leading tech firms and industry experts. We are dedicated to creating a pipeline of skilled professionals who will drive the digital transformation of Morocco and Africa.

Our successful participation at GITEX AFRICA highlighted our innovative approaches and our significant impact on the tech ecosystem.

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Technology

Polymorpho, a Moroccan cyber security company shines at GITEX Africa

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Polymorpho Team (Image; Supplied).

Founded in 2022 by Moroccan entrepreneurs and cyber security experts with over 15 years of experience, Polymorpho has always been committed to defying the complexity of cyber threats through innovative and adaptive solutions for individuals, companies, governments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement agencies to prevent and investigate cybercrime. Reda Cherqaoui, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Polymorpho, confirmed that the Moroccan cyber security company used their global expertise and know-how to launch their own venture.

Indeed, after many years of experience in France, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, the Moroccan founders have chosen to return home and Africa to create Polymorpho, a company offering a comprehensive range of services and solutions meeting the diverse cyber security needs of each organization.

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At GITEX Africa 2024, Polymorpho demonstrated to visitors and potential partners how their constant research and development make it possible for them to be ahead of increasingly diverse and rapid attacks. Through this event bringing together all digital players from throughout Africa, the continent keeps demonstrating to the world that the future of digital innovation is being formed by extraordinary abilities. Yet in cyber security alone, the potential and improvements to be made in Africa are quite substantial.

In fact, according to the most up-to-date statistics by Nairametrics, cyberattacks against African firms increased by 20% in Q1 2024 when compared to the same time last year. While there was a 5% rise in the average number of attacks per firm globally compared to the same quarter last year, the research found that African organizations saw the most attacks compared to others. With an increasingly attacked continent, the need for effective and adaptive cyber security measures is imminent. Polymorpho is ready for the challenge with their cutting-edge services and solutions in defensive security, offensive security, and cyber intelligence.

According to the Polymorpho team, being part of Gitex Africa was a great way to meet key partners and clients in need of more adaptive and tailored solutions. Polymorpho is motivated to keep inventing and pushing the limits of traditional cyber security solutions. We are honored to represent Morocco on the global scene and to demonstrate that Africa has nothing to envy from other continents in terms of technology, innovation, and cyber intelligence.

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