3 September 2019
Keynote address by Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana: Africa Code Week Launch of the 5th edition 2019, CTICC : Roof Terrace Room.
Good evening to you all.
Coding is a lifelong skill of the future, and a new language that all people, but especially children, need to be fluent in.
Learning to code is not necessarily about Coding, because coding is more about teaching cognitive problem solving, organisation, maths, storytelling, designing, and so much more, than just coding! In today’s tech economy, the world is in desperate and urgent need of people with coding skills to meet the demands of a burgeoning industry that isn’t going to be decreasing anytime soon.
Most importantly, coding allows kids to move from passive consumers into disruptors and innovators. I realised that coding for kids, allows them to see technology in a very different way – they see it as an opportunity for them to actually create something, or solve a real world problem. They don’t even think about it as a toy or a game!
In the era of the 4th industrial revolution, Coding is a basic literacy, as an important tool for kids to understand and be able to work with the technology around them. Having children learn coding at a young age prepares them for the future. So, Africa Code Week, as you launch your 5th edition tonight, we are keenly aware that you have contributed to coding programmes and initiatives across the continent, helping children with communication, creativity, maths, writing, and even self confidence, and self esteem.
These last 2 traits are critical, as we all know that in the world of AI and Digital Transformation, soft skills, or as I like to call them, the Power skills, are the skills of the future.
Speaking of AI, with job losses to AI in the coming decades predicted in the millions, coding is one skill that looks futureproof. And it seems to be futureproof, because it drives the agenda of what futureproofing is.
It is extremely interesting to look at what jobs in programming or coding itself, will also be replaced by AI, and to that end, a prediction of the future of programming is that it will become a core tenet of the education system, like any other subjects kids are currently studying in school. Every professional career of the future, whether it be in IT or medical, or marketing, etc, all of these will require proficiency in providing data analysis for big data sets, machine learning, and using simulation to reduce the cost of testing and manufacturing. This brings me to something I’m quite passionate about.
As you embark on your 5th edition, I would like to challenge you to not only carry out your coding programme successfully in 2019, as I have no doubt it will be a huge success, but also to start looking at how coding is unpacked for untrained people, how it’s applied, and how do you create narratives in the country about what is done with coding from a broader perspective.
Adults, parents, educators are driving the agenda of coding, but the question I have been asked many times, is what happens after the kids learn coding. Do they know how to apply it? Do they know what they can use it for, and how to leverage it for their benefit, especially for their careers, and especially as we face the beginning of the era of 4IR.
I also challenge you all, the partners and stakeholders of this wonderful thing called Africa Code Week, to put an African into the Top 10 list of top programmers of all time, to join the likes of Dennis Ritchie, James Gosling, Ken Thompson, Guido van Rossum, and the like. I would like it even better if this was an African woman in the Top 10, and I definitely don’t say this to you frivolously, just for the sake of.
Way back in the 1800’s it was Ada Lovelace who was the world’s first recorded computer programmer. She is credited for using an analytical machine to translate mathematical documents. It was also later recorded that this mechanical machine came to be the first ever computers. The computer programming language ADA which is used in aviation and the military, is named after her.
Much later in human history, in the 1960’s computer programming was seen as an admin job much like secretarial work, or filing and operational admin, and women were therefore the dominant gender in this field. There is even a Cosmopolitan article of the time, that refers to women as “naturals when it comes to computer programming”. So, the way I see it, Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to build on the history of women in programming. YOU have that unprecedented opportunity to do it for Africa!
It is critical in your strategic intent, to not only deliver amazing results as you obviously have done over the last few years, but I believe you have matured to the stage where you have the power to put Africa on the world map in a very competitive way, and in particular putting African women and girls on this global stage. If this legacy becomes your goal, you will surely find yourself amongst the global history makers of the 4th industrial revolution, to go down in the hall of fame of the World Economic Forum, for generations to come.
I’m humbled to stand before you and launch this for you, and I wish you good luck and God speed for October 2019, and your 5th edition. I want to end by quoting YOUR payoff line : “It takes an empowered village to raise a child in the digital age”.
I thank you! Malibongwe!