Through coding, Africa can change the world

| March 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tiisetso Maloma

My generation of high school students (I am 28) could not readily identify how the subjects they studied at school would factor into their lives and future careers. I suspect even the current generation of school-goers wonders the same thing.

Back in high school, I could not figure how to apply geometry, accounting or science to my life situation – then or in the future. The only way maths applied to my life then was that it was something I had to do at school and practise at home. Many years later as an entrepreneur, I find myself learning things with a purpose. I read marketing articles so I can find out effective ways of promoting products.

There is something about coding (computer programming) that reminds me of my stubbornness at school. I steadily resist coding. I do not and cannot want to code. But I can understand the purpose it serves in most things I use daily: a mobile phone, a digital satellite television (DStv) decoder (I possess one, but do not have a television), the Buffer App1 (for scheduling tweets),2 a computer printer, an e-book reader, etc.

Coding runs most things in life today. The beer we drink is made with programmed machines. The cars we drive. Robots, microwaves ovens are all the result of coding.

Coding is crucial

If children in all primary and high schools can be taught basic programming and its possible uses as they go through their days, they will realise most things are programmed: electric toys, music players, games, etc. They will learn the different purposes of programming and understand that programming is behind different products. They will see deficiencies in some
programmed products and learn how to improve them.

I read a story about two brothers in Nigeria, who taught themselves coding3 and created a web browser as they were “fed up with the slow speed of Google Chrome”. They saw a deficiency: that international web browsers aren’t enhanced for Africa’s slow internet. Their web browser is called Crocodile Browser Lite and is available from the Google Play store.4

I believe that what drove these two brothers to learn coding wasn’t necessarily just to have the skill, but the perceived purposes (ideas) for which they could use it. When people understand the purpose a skill can serve, they are motivated to self-teach.

If African children can be introduced coding in primary and high school, the world will then have millions of coders who will contribute to newer, faster tools and products. They will be driven by an inward urge – which is entrepreneurship.

So many options

I think of WordPress5 (an open-source website creation and hosting tool/application) and the thousands of plugins6 (add-on software components that add specific features to an existing
software application) created by private individuals. Some are offered partially free, but you have to purchase them to get their full use.

Even Shopify7 – a complete e-commerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods – makes use of private coders for profit.

We are waiting

There are plugins for website sign-up forms, product order forms, video displays and
digital shopping carts on online stores. Imagine if African kids were up there competing and contributing. The rest of Africa would benefit. Jobs would be self created. Young Africans
would be able to contribute economically.

We are waiting for the next Mark Shuttleworth.8 He knew coding and coded for a purpose. Look where it got him.

References:

1. See, for example: https://buffer.com/guides.
2. See, for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/about-twitter.
3. See, for example: http://urbanintellectuals.com/2015/06/05/13-15-yrs-oldnigerian- brothers-built-mobile-web-browsering-alternative-to-google-chrome/.
4. See: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.webs.enterprisedoor&hl=en.
5. See: https://wordpress.org/about/.
6. See: https://ithemes.com/tutorials/what-are-wordpress-plugins/.
7. See: https://www.shopify.co.za/faq/your-account.
8. See, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Shuttleworth.

Category: Autumn 2016

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