AWS helps Khayelitsha youth put tech into practice

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Zubin Chagpar, head of Middle East and Africa for AWS.
Zubin Chagpar, head of Middle East and Africa for AWS.

In response to ongoing calls to support skills development, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has established an initiative that aims to help young people build skills and business solutions for the world of tomorrow.

Speaking to ITWeb on the sidelines of the AWS Summit in Cape Town yesterday, Zubin Chagpar, head of Middle East and Africa, said the eKasi Challenge is AWS’s approach to continue to develop people in this economy.

This, noted Chagpar, is not only for the company but for its partners, customers and being a good corporate citizen for the country and the region.

It is well known that SA faces a digital skills deficit, with government, organisations and industry veterans calling for increased focus on skills development within the IT sector.

At South Africa’s inaugural Digital Economy Summit last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated government’s commitment to a skills revolution that will give the country the human capital required in the digital economy.

According to Chagpar, AWS worked with different institutions and partners to establish the eKasi Challenge. “It brings together many different programmes that we have, plus partners and academia institutions, to develop talent. Often when we do programmes, you might just start at a university because people are on their tertiary education, they are already in development and some are about to enter the workforce.

“However, eKasi is trying to bring that now to the township economies. When you do [training] on that level, then you start to be able to grow and maybe, where needed, create new programmes that develop people in those township too, so they can own their solutions and skills, and bring that into the economy too.”  

The first edition of the AWS eKasi Challenge took place last week, and over a three-day period, 20 learners from the Centre of Science and Technology, a non-fee secondary school in Khayelitsha, completed Python training and then undertook a Web design course.

From there, they built Web sites for real small businesses in their own communities. The results, according to AWS, were 10 Web sites all linked to social media with menus and buttons for additional features and information.

“What we’re doing is putting the technology into practice for them. They can think about an idea and then use technology to realise that idea, meaning it is not just about learning about technology for the sake of it.

“The overall vision is that the value the townships across the country can bring is enormous; it’s just a matter of unleashing that value and this is an attempt to do that,” Chagpar concluded.

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