Last week, as part of a global “Hour of Code” challenge held in honor of Computer Science Education Week, millions of children around the world spent an hour playing and developing computer games, creating mobile apps, and launching websites. Reaching more than 160 countries, the campaign taught kids that computer programming can be fun. It also helped young people to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively -- essential skills for life in the 21st century.
At the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, we were inspired by the success of this campaign and saw an opportunity to build on it to benefit youth in Africa throughout the year not just during a single week. That’s why we announced the launch of a new initiative to help African youth develop coding skills. We call it afriCoderDojo.
Launched in coordination with the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership, Hello World Foundation, and CoderDojo -- a global open source coding movement -- afriCoderDojo seeks to introduce youth to the basics of coding through a two-month course for students run by a network of experienced coders and volunteers.
Less than one percent of all African youth learn basic computer programming skills by the time they leave high school. And yet the majority of tomorrow’s job opportunities are in the computer science and internet technology field. Preparing African youth to compete in tomorrow’s marketplace means becoming fluent in the language of technology early on.
AfriCoderDojo aims to develop this fluency in computer programming by providing youth with regular access to technology, simple and fun coding lessons, and an opportunity to learn from mentors who inspire African youth to seek out a career in internet technology-related fields.
Next month, afriCoderDojo will launch pilot afriCoderDojo clubs in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and in Lagos, Nigeria with our local partners the Dar Teknohama Business Incubator, a Tanzania-based technology hub, and the Nigeria-based Oando Foundation, the Foundation behind Africa’s largest integrated energy provider.
Because afriCoderDojo is an organic network, we aim to begin the rapid roll out of the partnership across the continent in the second-half of 2014. Volunteers and mentors are needed and additional partners are welcomed -- the more involvement, the greater impact we can have.
In President Obama's video message for the Hour of Code campaign, the President encouraged children not just to buy a new video game, but to make one. “Don’t just download the latest app, said the President, “Help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program. No one is born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work -- and some math and science -- just about anyone can become one.”
Help us keep the spirit of the “Hour of Code” campaign alive all year by inspiring and motivating African youth to dig in and create.
About the Author: Thomas Debass serves as the Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships in the Office of the Secretary of State’s Global Partnership Initiative.