by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is causing significant disruption on how people think about skills, development and jobs.
It has culminated in a scare that the future of some jobs would be rendered unnecessary, an issue that is emotive in South Africa as it grapples rising unemployment.
Inequality is also projected to rise during automation asthose with less digital access tend to have fewer opportunities to participate in the job market.
It is against the backdrop of this digital divide that a global technology company is empowering communities in Alexandra, one of South’s iconic townships, albeit one of the most impoverished in the country.
Systems Applications Products (SAP), the Germany-headquartered multinational software corporation, has made available a technology centre for use by residents of the sprawling township affectionately known as Alex, located north of Johannesburg.
Cathy Smith, the Managing Director of SAP Africa, officially opened the facility at Rays of Hope, the non-profit company that for 30 years has been partnering for lasting change with the community of Alexandra.
The launch of the ICT centre is part of this year’s Nelson Mandela Month initiatives by SAP.
“We are bringing to life our Africa moment of service to the month of July,” Smith said.
“We are committed to bringing life and sustainability to this area,” she added.
Smith maintained a commitment to address inequality in South Africa.
“We have to connect with each other…those who have and those who do not. In partnership, we are able to create a more inclusive society where there is equality,” the executive said.
In addition to the opening of the Rays of Hope Technology Centre, SAP donated food parcels and planted trees at the centre.
The highlight was the introduction of coding to youngsters at the centre.
Siyafunda Community Technology Centre (CTC), established in 2006 after a realisation of the deficiency of information and communications technology (ICT) skills in marginalised communities, facilitated the training.
Faiza Xaba, Marketing and Communications official at Siyafunda CTC, noted while the aim was to catch them young, it was critical that the elderly members of the community also made the most of the ICT facility.
“COVID-19 gave us a challenge, whereby all stuff had to be done online but our elderly don’t have access to these technologies,” she noted.
“So, we encourage them to come and learn how to use the various tools, platforms and devices. We have the aim of not leaving anyone behind,” Xaba said.
“4IR is challenge to everyone. We need to upskill and empower ourselves with relevant knowledge and skills,” Xaba added in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
The theme, “Partnering with Alex to Create Lasting Change”, drives Rays of Hope.
It manages a number of social outreach programmes in Alex.
Rays of Hope also runs a Saturday school, benefitting 268 children weekly. In 2021, the centre impacted over 700 people directly.
The centre has 11 social workers.
Rays of Hope has set a goal to raise R1 million (about US$60 000) in funding to grow its cohort of social workers.
“We are raising funds to get more social workers. We want more so that they can cover more beneficiaries,” Lindiwe Nkiti, Programme Specialist Assistant at the organisation.
SAP has reiterated a commitment to work with the Rays of Hope.
Another team of SAP personnel is scheduled to grace the centre ahead of the Nelson Mandela Day, marked annually on July 18.
“Ray of Hope has been part of SAP for many years. It’s not a once off partnership,” said Nonkululeko Mokoena, Operations and Enablement Lead at SAP EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).
She spoke to CAJ News on the sidelines of the launch of the ICT centre.
“We come here to show them (youngsters) what’s possible. It gives these kids of our colour inspiration that they can do it. For me access is a big thing. If you don’t have access you cannot do anything,” Mokoena said.
Dina-Vera Schmittknecht, Enterprise Architect at SAP, said it was important for the private sector to maintain the ideals of Mandela, South Africa’s globally-acclaimed statesman (now late), who devoted his life to the service of humanity.
She said equipping people with digital skills was crucial, with the advent of the 4IR.
“Africa has one big point, which is the youth,” Schmittknecht said.
“If we can inspire them to learn coding, they can uplift themselves, their families and their community,” she added.
“If you teach people how to code, it gives them seeds of hope that their lives can be better. They can leave poverty behind,” Schmittknecht said.
– CAJ News