This morning Microsoft South Africa held a virtual media briefing to mark the launch of the Eastern Cape Digital Skills Virtual Innovation Hub.
The centre has come about as the result of a partnership between Microsoft SA and the The Eastern Cape Provincial Government, along with assistance from the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC), the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (Nemisa), Walter Sisulu University and non-profit Afrika Tikkun.
The parties explain that this Hub will be a first in the province, along with being part of an empowerment partnership to develop critical digital skills and build the ICT capability of individuals and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
With the Eastern Cape having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at an estimated 43.8 percent, there is hope that initiatives like this will assist in upskilling the youth in the region and better equipping them with the demands of the modern work environment.
“While the emerging digital economy presents enormous opportunities, the socio-economic challenges of our province impede access to these opportunities and prevent citizens from participating actively in this economy underpinned by digital transformation,” noted Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, during the launch.
Microsoft SA adds that the Hub will be taking a multi-pronged approach to addressing ICT skills development in the province.
To that end, some of the approaches will include:
- Microsoft’s Global Skilling Initiative, which will provide digital skills courses, certification and resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.
- Selected partners will also provide training required by the province for up to 100 interns as part of the Microsoft Internship Programme.
- 10 schools in the province, with a focus on 10 teachers and 10 Grade 10 learners from each school, have been selected to participate in a Digital Schools Initiative – which features a workshop designed around the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework.
- 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.
- Microsoft has also developed a local landing page of its Cloud Society for the province’s citizens. It will develop and deploy Cloud Society in a Box for the province to provide training, certification opportunities, and face-to-face engagement opportunities with Microsoft cloud experts.
Mentioned during the launch too is Microsoft’s intention of identifying and assisting local SMMEs, particularly those headed up by women.
“Equipping young people with critical digital skills is essential to get them employed or self-employed – but it is equally important to invest in SMMEs, which are engines of economic growth and job creation. This is why, as part of the partnership with the Eastern Cape provincial government, 16 Black-owned and Black women-owned ICT SMMEs have been identified and will receive training to be certified as Microsoft Gold Partners as part of the Emerging Partner Programme,” highlights Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft South Africa
“By lowering entry barriers to SMMEs in priority sectors like Agriculture, Health, Education, and Disaster Management and accelerating their journey to Gold partner status, we will help grow a sustainable, diversified, and inclusive supply chain that contributes more broadly to economic growth in South Africa,” she adds.
Looking forward, we should be seeing more of these types of initiatives being rolled out by Microsoft SA in partnership with government and other relevant stakeholders.
“The successful implementation of the Digital Skills Virtual Innovation Hub in the Eastern Cape will see the framework being rolled out in other provinces across the country, with three to five more planned in the next financial year,” notes a press release regarding the Hub.
We’ll be following the upcoming Hubs with interest.