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When I started Inventive Africa, I was not aware of exactly how innovative Africa is. I hadn’t thought of the potential of technology in Africa and also the possibilities for technology created by Africans. Each week I am surprised by the amount of incredible technology and innovation that is springing up from all corners of the continent. But, it is not good enough to just write about it! I have been itching to be part of the change. But how?
The answer jumped out at me during the World Web Forum, in Zurich in January. Bill Liao, co-founder of Xing (A German Linkedin, was on stage discussing the fact that the world lacks computer programmers, and that most of the start ups that come to see him plan to outsource their work to coders. I was already beginning to think about how Africa could offer a solution to this problem when Mr Liao also provided that. He had set up and organisations called CoderDojo which has set up fun computer coding clubs across the world. Dojos enable kids to have fun for 2 hours a week and learn anything from Scratch, a very basic drag and drop computer language for beginners, to HTML, Java and Python. They are not structures with a teacher at the front of the class leading the kids through the process. The kids themselves sit down and learn via trial and error, with mentors on hand to answer any questions.
Dojos are free for the kids and run by volunteer mentors and are supposed to be as low cost as possible. Mr Liao was on stage calling upon businesses to offer their computers, space and staff to create the new generation of coders, to satisfy the demand for developers.
I am in Zurich, thousands of miles away from sub-Saharan Africa, so how do I go about organising such an event. That is where Airtel come in. You will have read in this blog that Airtel Ghana are doing incredibly well supporting the local community. In fact just last week they one even more awards for their CSR work. I happened to meet the very inspirational Lucy Quist at an event in Zurich and decided to ask her if Airtel Ghana would be interested in helping out. Within a few hours I had heard from Maame Dufie Cudjo, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Airtel Ghana, offering the ICT centre at a local school as a location as well some mentors from their office. All this before I have even contacted to CoderDojo to see what was involved in setting up a Dojo.
So, with the help of Peter O’Shea, from CoderDojo, Maame Dufie, Ruth Apaw, and the Mentors Thelma Quaye, Enoch Appiah, Josiah Eyison from iSpace and Enoch, the passionate hardware enthusiast form Airtel, the first La Wireless dojo took place on the Saturday the 22nd of April. I was very fortunate that I was also in Accra to take part in the event. As we waited for the kids and mentors to arrive, there was a feeling of apprehension. I was concerned that this may be a step to far for some of these children and that learning in this style wouldn’t work in Ghana. Children are used to be learning parrot style and led step by step, would they be able to lead themselves through the process? Could they teach each other?
YES! 26 children arrived, and set down to have fun. We started them on Scratch, and to my surprise, some of them already knew the basics and started coming up with cool creations right away. We paired those with experience together with those who had none and the creative process started. By the end of the two hour session, we had various games created, for example one game where you had to click the mouse on the randomly moving and flashing sprite to get points. We also had two road safety programmes created. If the person didn’t look left, right and left again, she was hit by the car. The ability of these kids so early on in the Dojo was amazing.
We need to teach the next generation how to code. The foundation of everything around us is going to be computer code, and this will be the same in Africa. We always talk about leapfrogging in Africa, and I write about it with some caution, but the digital divide is being closed. That means Africa will need coders, and if Africa trains enough coders it can export those services, like Andela are doing already to some of the worlds biggest tech companies.
If you have a space, and some enthusiastic volunteers to create more CoderDojo’s across Africa, check out the site here and get going. It is very easy to set up and CoderDojo offer all the information for free! Please let us know if you do so we can follow your progress. Lets turn Africa into the coding capital of the world!
CODERDOJO LA WIRELESS IS LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEER MENTORS TO COME FOR TWO HOURS TO SUPPORT THE STUDENTS IN THEIR LEARNING! FOR MORE INFORMATION EMAIL INVENTIVEAFRICA1@GMAIL.COM. IT IS JUST 2 SATURDAYS A MONTH AND IT IS A LOT OF FUN! (NO TEACHING, JUST SUPPORTING!)
If you know of an innovation that is changing lives, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!