Kekana wants coding to be compulsory at school

Communications Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana says coding should be introduced as a compulsory subject in schools in order to put the upcoming South African generation on par with international standards.

“… Once we start teaching our children coding from an early age, it will give them the skills to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Kekana said.

The Deputy Minister, together with the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu and the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, joined other women in a high-level panel discussion on promoting information and communication technology (ICT) opportunities for women empowerment.

The panel discussion took place on Thursday at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World Conference 2018 in Durban.

Kekana said South Africa needs to adopt deliberate and measurable targets to bridge the gender divide in the ICT sector.

“We need to [teach] young girls to code at a young age…

“Does gender parity always translate into women empowerment because we can put women [in top management positions] but not be able to put [them in] an enabling environment that will allow them to pull up other women as they rise. This is a challenge that we need to address,” she said.

Opportunities for women

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has committed to provide training to 100 women a year per province in digital literacy. It is also providing the Girls-who-Code programme, targeting 100 girls.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said she will launch a multi-stakeholder consultative forum in October to devise a strategy towards collaborating for the programme.

“If we are to derive an effective economic spin-off in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have to build a capable army. We realise that a capable army can’t be capable if there are no women,” the Deputy Minister said.

Zulu said the role to narrow the digital divide related to gender equality requires a combined effort from government and the private sector.

“Government, the private sector, academia and entrepreneurs themselves all have different roles in strengthening the ICT ecosystem for women.

“There is a need for a centre where policymakers, entrepreneurs, financiers, academics, start-up communities, technology companies, State development agencies and civil society can come together to address the challenges and opportunities of the changing environment,” Zulu said.

The Minister emphasised the importance of understanding the requirements that drives the need to create economic opportunities and provide solutions to the daily challenges faced by South Africans as paramount to bridging the digital innovation divide.

According to Zulu, her department has for the past three years exceeded the public service target of 50% women in Senior Management Service positions.

“Given that our top portfolios are occupied by women, this suggests that when we plan and implement, there is a strong presence of capable women senior managers,” she said.

The Department of Small Business Development, supported by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), has the women in ICT incubator called Bandwidth Barn.

The incubator assists women-owned ICT businesses to grow and build their contacts.

“The South African Parliament has approximately 44% female Members of Parliament, ranging from Ministers to political party leaders,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za