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13-year-old Naledi Phafane wows developer community at TADHack SA

Grade seven learner Naledi Phafane, seen here with her father and teammate Pule Phafane, was the youngest developer who participated in the inaugural TADHack South Africa developer challenge.

Grade seven learner Naledi Phafane, seen here with her father and teammate Pule Phafane, was the youngest developer who participated in the inaugural TADHack South Africa developer challenge.

Grade seven learner Naledi Phafane caused a stir recently as the youngest developer participating in the inaugural TADHack South Africa developer challenge.

13-year-old Naledi, who was named the GirlCode Girl Coder of the Weekend, participated in the telecoms developer challenge with her father, Pule Phafane. The father-daughter duo collaborated on a solution designed to overcome a problem faced by multitudes of South Africans who do not have formal street addresses.

"We designed an app that will use cellphone signals to confirm a person's place of residence. This could be used by banks and other companies in lieu of proof of residence documentation," they explained. While their Pandora app did not win the local TADHack challenge, Naledi's participation illustrated that innovation and development capability is not the preserve of the older generation.

Describing herself as "just an ordinary kid" at school, Naledi has been working with her father on new apps throughout the past year. Earlier this year, they collaborated on an app that won the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality Hackathon (EMMHack) challenge. The app, Vula Open Robot, allows drivers to change traffic lights to green on lonely roads at night.

"Naledi's compassion for people drives her to find solutions," says dad Pule. "I'm very proud of her."

She believes anyone has the power to affect positive change, and sees IT development as a way to do so. "I don't think a person should wait for ‘one day' to become someone and do something – you should grab the opportunity now," says Naledi.

She sees no reason why girls should not be interested in careers in IT: "Girls shouldn't think they need to be ‘just a girl'," she says. Her own ambitions include building her own IT business, being an inventor and exploring the world of digital animation.

TADHack, an international developer challenge, was brought to South Africa by MTN and its partner sponsors. The event was staged at the MTN Innovation Centre in Johannesburg in mid-October.

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