IBM to pump R1bn into African IT skills - TechCentral

IBM to pump R1bn into African IT skills

IBM South Africa GM Hamilton Ratshefola

IBM will invest US$70m (about R950m) in developing IT skills in Africa, the US technology giant said on Wednesday.

The money will be used to build digital, cloud and cognitive computing IT skills to “help support a 21st century workforce in Africa”, it said. It will use a cloud-based learning platform to provide as many as 25m African youngsters with free skills over five years.

The planned investment forms part of IBM’s global push to build skills for new kinds of careers that do not always require a university degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other areas of IT.

The skills development programme will provide African youth with a higher level of digital literacy.

Through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, a cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programmes from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills, including social engagement, digital privacy and cyber protection, IBM said in a statement.

“Advanced users will be able to explore career-orientated IT topics, including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies, as well as important business skills like critical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

It said the initiative aims to empower people with the knowledge and tools to develop and launch their own digital solutions.

Based on IBM’s Watson technology, the cognitive online system will adapt and learn. “It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users,” the company said.

“Watson will also create a depth of knowledge using anonymous information gathered from interactions with the students. This will help entrepreneurs and developers understand which current Bluemix solutions best meet their needs and refine their idea to help them design a solution that has greatest market potential.”

The programme will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt.

IBM said the programme is imperative in light of the fact that Africa has approximately 200m people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, it said, the continent will be home to the world’s largest labour force, with an estimated working age population of one billion. “Yet many African companies cite a local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth. In South Africa alone, where more than a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, businesses struggle to find appropriate skills, particularly in the IT field.”

IBM said effective and high-quality IT education is a key driver of economic “vitality” in Africa. “Through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development”, said Hamilton Ratshefola, GM of IBM South Africa, in the statement.

“To find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth,” Ratshefola said.

The initiative will provide access to thousands of resources, in English, including ready-to-use mobile apps; guides (Web guides, demonstrations, interactive simulations, video series and articles); online assessments (self-assessment tests to track the progress of individuals); volunteers (creation of a volunteer programme to support and promote digital literacy within communities); and an app marketplace (a platform on which new applications can either be made freely available or sold).

The initiative will be supported by the United Nations Development Programme, which has a special focus on fostering market-driven ICT skills in Africa and the Middle East. IBM will collaborate with the UN programme on opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills delivery, certification and accreditation. The UN programme will work with their network of existing government partnerships to extend the initiative throughout Africa.  — © 2017 NewsCentral Media

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