SEATTLE — On Feb. 8, IBM announced an investment of $70 million in a new initiative for digital literacy in Africa. The initiative is IBM Digital – Nation Africa, a program that will educate 25 million African citizens in IT over the next five years. IBM’s goal is to increase digital literacy and equip entrepreneurs with the skills to start new businesses and develop technological solutions to long-running issues in Africa, poverty being one.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will support IBM Digital – Nation Africa. IBM is reaching out to African millennials who need digital literacy to succeed in the local and global workforce. Africa’s millennial population is close to 200 million people and by 2040 they will make up 20 percent of the workforce. IBM believes that high quality IT education is crucial to the future employment of African citizens and the sustainability of the African economy.
IBM is using Nation Africa to equip the next generation with skills required for what it calls “new collar” careers. “New collar” describes careers that require a variety of IT skills but not always a college degree — careers such as data science and cyber security. Skills such as these can empower individuals to create new businesses and aid their communities through technological solutions.
According to IT News Africa, the initiative is “a free, cloud-based learning environment” on IBM’s Bluemix platform. The program will provide students with access to a variety of IT and business courses that will aid them in developing basic digital literacy, entrepreneurial and critical thinking skills. These courses are in English and include mobile apps, video guides, articles, online assessments and certifications, volunteer advocacy programs and an app marketplace where students can download new learning applications.
Based on IBM’s Watson supercomputer, IBM Digital – Nation Africa will learn from its interactions with students and adapt accordingly. This “cognitive online system” will help users find resources and courses that suit their needs and interests.
Anyone can access the program and its basic set of resources, but when students create an online profile and log in, they have access to exams, learning achievements and an online community where they can interact with other students. When users complete training, they will be certified to apply for any IT job, including a job with IBM.
IBM will launch the initiative from its offices in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and will expand across Africa over the next five years. By improving digital literacy in Africa, IBM will bring developing countries into the global network and allow citizens to conduct business, develop partnerships around the world and contribute to their local economies.
– Rachel Cooper