Tech helps push back the frontiers of poverty
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The launch of a Microsoft Innovation Hub in Queenstown, Chris Hani District Municipality economic hub, highlights the importance of a public private partnership in addressing the country’s socio-economic ills and bridging the digital divide, said Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.
Speaking at the Microsoft Virtual Innovation Hub Eastern Cape Launch, Komani Health Resource Centre, Komani (formerly Queenstown), in the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality, the Premier said he was also pleased that Walter Sisulu University as a tertiary institution was a strategic partner in this project.
“Clearly, this shows that our universities are no longer ivory towers as they used to be in the past, far removed from the harsh socio-economic difficulties that continue to torment the masses of our people on a daily basis,” he said during the virtual launch earlier this month.
Mabuyane said the government needed the support of the private sector, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic has unexpectedly shifted the country into the fifth gear of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Microsoft has led from the front with the introduction of Microsoft Teams that we are using daily and has made virtual meetings a new reality and one of the best digital innovations across the globe.
“Through this technological innovation and advancement government has been able to save a lot of money in local and international travelling.
“It is therefore befitting to launch this hub in this economically depressed District Municipality.
“It is our hope as government that a number of jobs in not-too-distant future will be created through this digital innovation,” he said.
Mabuyane said he was hoping that this hub will incubate technological innovation projects for unemployed young people.
“It is estimated that young people in this country account for 75% of the country’s unemployment rate of 32.6%.”
The Eastern Cape currently has one of the highest unemployment rates at 43.8% – with the majority of those unemployed being youth, especially from rural and under-served areas.
Through this endeavour with Microsoft, together with co-implementing partners in Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council, NEMISA, Walter Sisulu University and the non-profit development initiative Afrika Tikkun, Mabuyane said they were planting the seeds needed to grow the provincial economy.
“We are going to ensure that the masses of our people particularly the rural poor are not left behind.
“We are doing everything possible to push back the frontiers of poverty.
“This Innovation Hub will undoubtedly play a big role in giving digital access to the citizens of this district municipality,” he said.
“While we must exhibit a predisposed posture to global innovation, given the unprecedented interconnectivity of the world’s populations, we must also hasten to improve the local skills base of South Africans, through education and other innovations such as these – if we are to narrow the vast inequality we still see in our country,” he added.
Young people in the province will be targeted through a basket of multi-sectorial technology, broadband and infrastructure priority projects as part of the Virtual Skills Innovation Hub.
Through predetermined partners, training will be provided for up to 100 interns, from across the province, as part of the Microsoft Internship Programme, which is a job creation initiative geared towards delivering in-demand technology skills to unemployed youth.
Ten schools in the province with a focus on 10 teachers and 10 Grade 10 learners from each school already have been selected to take part in a Digital Schools Initiative – which will feature a workshop designed around the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework.
These tools will also help leaders in education develop the strategies to help young students, facing today’s job market, navigate the ever-evolving world of learning and work.
As part of the Train the Trainer Programme of the Microsoft AI University Programme, Microsoft has also trained representatives from Walter Sisulu University to address the demand for Artificial Intelligence skills in South Africa.
“Indeed, this partnership with Microsoft will assist in making sure that we bridge two divides: inequality in the education and literacy space, as well as inequalities created by the lack of access to digital literacy platforms,” the premier said.