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Coding the future

A new technology social impact programme, called WeCode24, is re-examining the way computer science is taught by shifting away from the notion that it requires advanced, university-level maths skills and focusing on the elements of play and creativity.

Digitisation is transforming not only our personal lives but also our workplace. A common concern from the majority of corporate employers in a recent McKinsey1 report was the lack of skills of entry-level applicants and graduates who were inadequately prepared for work.

Most occupations – an estimated 60% – as we know them will become absorbed by technological advances and will change. The people who will be employed – at both entry-level and in senior positions – are those who can understand and adapt to the digitisation of the workplace. Technology creates new income possibilities

The number of individual (as opposed to corporate) jobs created by digital platforms is increasing. Every day, more people are looking to become part of the “gig economy”. With it comes a need, not only for new digital platforms but also for people, to staff and manage these platforms. And that’s where coding skills become important.

For many youth, however, access to these skills is difficult – let alone acquiring a sufficient grounding in the basics of coding to move into a digital career. WeCode24 provides an entry point, initially by challenging the assumptions regarding coding skills and then by demonstrating the potential it offers for the future.

WeCode24 was launched in 2017 as a pilot project at four historically disadvantaged Western Cape schools to provide learners from Grade 8 to Grade 11, who had little or no maths skills, a chance to learn to write code. It is now expanding to more schools and aims to reach more than 500 greater Cape Metropole learners in 2020.

The initiative is the brainchild of Professor Rachel Jafta from Stellenbosch University’s economics department and aims to show those with the talent and interest the opportunities that could open to them if they acquired basic coding skills. Jafta is chair of the Media24 board and also a director on the Naspers board.

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