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SA Computer Olympiad goes ahead online

Read time 2min 20sec

As the first round of the South African Computer Olympiad kicks off today, theInstitute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) says interested schools may still enter the contest.

Hosted annually, the Olympiad is one of IITPSA’s key skills development projects and is managed by the by the South African Computer Olympiad Trust (SACOT).

It is a challenge for learners who can use a programming language like Scratch, Python, Java, C++ or Delphi. In the first round, the participants have to solve a number of problems using the programming language of their choice. For the second round and final round, the languages are more restricted. Selected participants are entered into the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).

This year, the computer programming contest is taking place online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, running from 27 to 31 July.

As of this morning, there are 445 433 COVID-19 cases in SA, with the total number of deaths at 6 769 and 265 077 recoveries. Government last week decided to close all public schools for one month from 27 July, as coronavirus infections peak.

In a statement, the IITPSA says given the COVID-19 regulations at schools across the country, the event’s first round, which is a coding contest, will be for one hour and online only, to give teachers as little additional work as possible in what has been described as “not a normal year”.

The Olympiad organisers note that many teens have been experimenting with coding during lockdown, adding this is one of many reasons to continue with the computer programming challenge this year.

“It [the Olympiad] contributes to future-proofing South Africa. Building the data skills of today’s teens can help South Africa develop beyond the pandemic,” says SACOT manager Michael Cameron. “Today, entrepreneurs are looking for young programmers. They see the benefit of having tech-savvy teens in business. It is best to start young – some primary schools enter grade seven learners.”

According to IITPSA, the Olympiad has developed top programming skills for 35 years. The six medal winners from the final round are invited to training, to develop and select a team of four to take part in the IOI.

This year, SA is one of the 88 countries taking part in the first-ever online IOI, to be held in mid-September. Team members are from Eden College in Durban, St John’s College in Johannesburg, and Fairbairn College and Curro Durbanville from Cape Town.

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