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Opinion & Analysis

Develop digital skills among our youth

Beauty and hair vlogger Sheila Ndinda. To gain competitive skills, the internet has made knowledge available to all. PHOTO | COURTESY
Beauty and hair vlogger Sheila Ndinda. To gain competitive skills, the internet has made knowledge available to all. PHOTO | COURTESY  

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Giving an education to young minds on how to code is perhaps the most powerful thing to do in this era of digital transformation. Kibra-based hub, Tunapanda, is doing just that.

This is particularly important because employment has changed. What has become to be known as the “gig economy” (defined as receiving compensation for one key performance) has slowly become acceptable.

We must start to psychologically prepare the minds of prospective employees that permanent jobs may not be available tomorrow. Employment through zero-hour contracts is dying.

The recent launch of Ajira Kenya marked the beginning of change from traditional employment to the gig economy.

It is skills and attitudes that command higher salaries and not loyalty as has been the case in the past.

To gain competitive skills, the internet has made knowledge available to all.

When skilled technologists, designers, and business-people join together to solve problems, both new and existing companies rise to new heights, improving living standards for those involved.

We should all be encouraging our children to learn about how computers and code work with design and entrepreneurship to move societies forward.

Nairobi already has a relatively large number of skilled software developers who either work for companies solving problems, or engage in freelance “gigs” for companies around the world.

The PyConKE-17 conference (Python Conference that aims to bring together software developers, techies, business people, among others) that will be held in Nairobi between September 28th-29th is likely to open more minds and launch numerous partnerships for such programmers.

Increasingly, attracting these skilled professionals is what makes the difference between success and failure for companies of all kinds, especially ambitious companies in competitive industries.

Attracting these skilled professionals to work on problems in Kenya and across the continent, and scale the companies they work for globally, will play a key part in Africa’s future of work.

Further, the availability of data and new visualization tools provide opportunities for academia and government to help improve the lives of citizens. It is important that we look to develop and leverage the most important assets we have: the minds of our people.

In the world of software, it is open source (free to use) tools that drive innovation. Among these, the real behemoth could reasonably be Python and the tools around it.

In the past three decades, the Python community has evolved as a strong scripting language with various uses (for example, scripting 3D animations).

It has evolved as the language of choice for scientists at universities around the world, and is now emerging as a Swiss army knife for data scientists and statisticians.

It is the favoured introductory programming language at top universities in the world as well as the tool of choice for massive global data-driven companies.

I bet that if we utilize Python, our young developers and the massive data sets in our ailing retail outlets, we could unearth revenue opportunities in the magnitude of their debts.

There is a quiet but growing Python community in Nairobi, with over 800 people in the Python meetup and hundreds more developers quietly working and learning.

It is for this reason that next month’s Python Conference at USIU will bring together top industry professionals, entrepreneurs, academics, and anyone interested in the future of technology, design, and business.

The event is supported by several emerging local players such as Jumo and Ona and co-hosted by the Nairobi Python Meetup and Tunapanda Institute.

There will be talks, workshops, and networking events held throughout, and the event will culminate in a weekend hackathon as teams of designers and technologists build products. Go to pycon.or.ke to buy your tickets, to sign up for the hackathon, or to otherwise get involved.

As the world changes, it is vital that we look to develop the skills and attitudes of our young people, and direct their energy to solving problems in our local communities while connecting communities across the continent.

PyConKE-17 is the place to meet those bright minds and top companies who are creating the future.

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