Local students get ICT training as Huawei course begins

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Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is flanked by the 2021 cohort of the Seeds for the Future programme.
Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is flanked by the 2021 cohort of the Seeds for the Future programme.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated deployment and adoption of ICTs, particularly those deemed to be technologies of the future.

The challenge with this acceleration, however, is that it demands a faster pace of skills development, says communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Ntshavheni was speaking at the launch of the 2021 Seeds for the Future ICT training programme at the Huawei SA Campus in Woodmead, Johannesburg, where she encouraged accelerated efforts to train local talent in digital skills.

“The Seeds for the Future Programme that has, to date, trained over 90 students, must rapidly increase the number of students it trains per annum.

“The hybrid teaching model Huawei has adopted for this year offers an opportunity for ramping-up the numbers of students that can be trained in a year.”

For Ntshavheni, the Seeds for the Future is an important vehicle towards bridging the digital divide.

Amid the scourge of unemployment in SA, particularly among the country’s youth, government has prioritised programmes that will create employment opportunities, and boost digital skills and digital capacity.

Seeds for the Future is Huawei's global social responsibility initiative. In SA, Huawei partnered with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in 2016, to roll out the ICT training programme locally.

University students with ICT-related majors − including computer science, electronic science, IT, software and engineering − are chosen from various higher learning institutions across SA.

Over the course of the training, participating students learn about technologies such as 5G, cloud, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, and are also introduced to Chinese culture and language, to foster cross-cultural understanding.

Between 2016 and 2019, 40 students (of whom half are female) travelled to China for the annual programme, and 50% of the graduates have joined the ICT industry.

In 2020, due to the global pandemic lockdown, the course was held online,and Huawei was able to expand the number of candidates to 50.

This year’s intake is made up of 12 candidates, and Huawei has upgraded the course to feature a blended approach of learning both online and offline. This year’s curriculum will also focus is on getting students to think about how to use technology to address social and environmental issues under Huawei’s Tech4Good programme.

“The technologies driving the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) can be quite difficult to understand,” said Huawei South Africa CEO Spawn Fan. “But as long as we keep learning, this will not be a problem.”

According to Fan, if SA is to take advantage of the emerging technologies driving the 4IR, it needs people with the necessary skills and leadership to properly utilise them.

“We want to encourage and develop a sense of social responsibility and foster innovation in our young people. We want them to think about how to use technology to solve complex global issues, like climate change, for example.”

Chinese ambassador to SA Chen Xiaodong added: “The world is witnessing a new generation of digital technology, which is bringing about fresh change in society and industry.

“During COVID-19, the digital economy had become an important driving force in the global economic recovery. According to the World Bank, the digital economy accounts for 15% of world GDP, while China’s digital sector accounts for 39% of its GDP.”

He continued: “We firmly support Huawei in showing social responsibility and engaging in win-win cooperation. China will continue to cooperate with SA in advancing development with the digital economy at the core.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch, Ntshavheni said: “The launch of the Seeds for the Future is quite important because we are moving into a digital economy, and that requires different skills.

“The digital economy is not coming, it’s already here. Artificial intelligence, 5G spectrum, internet of things, cloud computing and big data are already being used to deploy things.

“The skills they are learning are not like normal skills, but skills they can use to develop communities and participate in the sustainable development of our country.”

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