By Ben Roberts, Group Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Liquid Intelligent Technologies
Technology has transcended the barriers and boundaries of the education system, modernising our current education environment through improved collaboration, flexibility and scalability opportunities. According to UNICEF, younger people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most connected age group. With the current wave of digitisation impelled by the pandemic, the education sector has been pushed to open itself to a new world of digital possibilities and to embrace technology as a driver of learning, growth, and development. For a continent as diverse as Africa, technology presents an enormous opportunity in bridging the age-old gap that exists in the education sector.
Poverty, race, economic conditions, gender discrimination, lack of local infrastructure are some of the key issues that have kept the continent at bay from providing equal education opportunities to the African youth. However, as we step into the new era of unlimited progress and development powered through the unstoppable force of technology, there is a ray of hope to transform the education sector.
Liquid Intelligent Technologies has been on the move to digitally empower Africa’s workforce of tomorrow through Liquid Labs further aspiring to make relevant tech training-programmes accessible to students and professionals to bridge the affordability and digital divide across the continent.
MAKING THE DIFFERENCE – FROM NEVER USING A COMPUTER TO LEARNING DATA-SCIENCE
The future of our great continent rests in the hands of the younger generation who will become the workforce of tomorrow. It is imperative that these young minds receive proper education, training and skills needed to succeed in this digital era. As part of the company’s core commitment to foster innovation, knowledge and digital skills amongst African youth, Liquid Intelligent Technologies through its partnership with Husika Trust, ran a women-in-tech program in Data Science in the Githunguri Kiambu County of Kenya.
While Husika Trust generally works in the area of spreading awareness about gender-disparity issues across the country, it was the first time the organisation ran a tech-based programme that would allow students to learn digital skills. The data science programme curated by Liquid’s 21C Skills, is designed to encourage youth not only to get familiar with the new-age technology and digital tools but also to create a strong foundation for their future in this digital economy. The three-month programme kicked off in July 2021 giving students the opportunity to learn advanced data science skill from visualising data to learning python and SQL programming culminating in September 2021.
Speaking about her experience, Sheline Wangui, learner of the 21C skills data science course said, “This was truly one of those life-altering opportunities where you learn something and remember it for life. Through the course, I have learned that you can achieve anything if you persist, practice, and learn time management. What was really interesting to me was the community spirit where students from different walks of life came together to learn and share skills. At all stages, we felt supported by our mentor as well as the fellow students which was extremely significant in speeding up our learning progress. This course has definitely sparked an interest in me to learn more about information and communications technology…something that I will be pursuing in the near future.”
Even though the partnership with Husika Trust was primarily aimed at enabling young women, the popularity of the course helped spread the word and a number of male participants also joined and learned from the course. Commenting on his experience, Peter Njubi said, “The course was such an eye-opener for me, as I had never even used a computer before so you can imagine how nervous I felt before joining this course. But to my delight, everyone in the course from the facilitators to the students was extremely supportive and created an environment where every individual regardless of their background felt nurtured and nourished. I looked forward to attending these classes every day as my interest grew and I found my calling. These three months were truly transformational for me, my goal in life now is to learn more about data science and hopefully become a data engineer one day. I could not have been more thankful to Husika Trust and 21C Skills for presenting this valuable opportunity.”
The coursework included peer-to-peer discussions, assignments, and online lessons along with in-person coaching in order to deliver a holistic experience for best learning outcomes for the students. Remarkably, the students from the course had never worked or completed any online-course before the 21C Skills Africa data-science programme.
Furthermore, most attendees of the course have now set their eyes on learning digital courses in universities to carve out a professional path for themselves. This demonstrates the need for more organisations and companies to come forward to ignite this spark of interest amongst young minds through such creative partnerships.
BECOMING TORCH-BEARERS OF EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT
With the mounting growth of AI, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), it is evident that the digital chasm is only set to become bigger as we move ahead into the future. Preparing the youth for this technology driven future is not only a responsibility of parents and teachers but also tech companies that are rapidly changing the face of the society with newer innovations.
With the gender gap in IT skills being far too wide, Liquid joined hands with Husika Trust to break this barrier and invite Kenyan female students providing them competent training not only in digital skills but also management and leadership skills. Giving an account of what the course entailed in the three months of its duration, Leah Mburu – Facilitator at Husika Trust said, “This was the first time that a digital programme such as this was facilitated in our area to empower girls with the right technological tools needed to succeed tomorrow. This was a unique partnership that ran the hybrid model of online and offline learning, showcasing a potential model that can be explored for the rest of Africa. It is the duty of every individual and organisation to empower groups from marginalized sections of society. Creating impact starts by creating change and we are extremely thankful to 21C Skills for partnering with Husika Trust to introduce this data-science programme for the first time in our region.”
Challenging rigid and disabling gender norms while at the same time securing more stable economic futures for young women remained the objective of this empowerment-led partnership between the two organisations. It is crucial for organisations and companies to recognise the power of digital technology and truly use their digital blueprint to empower, enable and educate younger people in the society to create a better future for all.