Afro Fem CodersAs a recent Mastercard Foundation Scholar and computer science master’s graduate at UC Berkley, Gloria Tumushabe is acutely aware of the inequality between men and women in computer programming, especially in her home country of Uganda. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, specifically in computer programming where “less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.” To address the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ education in Uganda, Tumushabe launched Afro Fem Coders: a remote program teaching young Ugandan women how to code.

COVID-19 and Heightened Gender Inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened education inequality for Ugandan girls. Once the pandemic hit, many students had to take a step back in their education due to school closures, economic hardships and health issues. The negative repercussions of COVID-19 disproportionately impact girls and women. The Malala Fund found that “marginalized girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic.”

Afro Fem Coders

Afro Fem Coders began with Tumushabe spreading the word that she would teach Ugandan girls how to code. Once girls started expressing interest in the program, Tumushabe used part of her scholarship stipend to fund the girls’ access to laptops and the internet. Afro Fem Coders gained support through a GoFundMe and now includes a mentorship program with leaders from Silicon Valley.

The program aims to “create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in an environment that makes them feel safe, empowered and inspired.” UNICEF asserts that a feeling of safety and empowerment is important for girls to develop digital skills, especially in spaces where gender norms undermine girls’ aspirations to pursue STEM careers.

Eight girls are currently enrolled in the program, with many of them aspiring to be engineers. Student Martha Toni Atwiine endeavors “to build technology for differently-abled people and create more inclusive technology.” Margaret Tendo hopes to “use her computer science knowledge to create applications that create safe travel options for women around the country.”

Revitalizing the Economy Through Women in STEM

Not only do programs like Afro Fem Coders dismantle gendered barriers to opportunity and education but they also tap into major growth opportunities. If empowered young women enter STEM fields in Uganda, they have the chance to transform their nation into a space of growth and opportunity, harnessing the power of technology within the economic sphere.

Coupled with economic empowerment, technological advancement provides new opportunities for careers and breakthroughs that can reduce poverty in a country. UNICEF’s report on girls’ STEM education expresses that “STEM education also has the potential to contribute to personal empowerment, transformation of communities and nations and building economies for the future.”

“The more of us women in this space, the better,” Tumushabe told Berkeley. Overall, the representation of young women in fields such as computer programming actively benefits the economy and combats global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Unsplash

STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in HaitiHaiti has experienced a long history of natural disasters and extreme poverty. Despite these challenges, Haiti could eventually thrive through technology and innovation. Technology and innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti have set the stage for new products and ideas, but expertise and transformation have also allowed the country to improve on assets that already exist.

Foreign Direct Investment

Digicel, a communications and entertainment company headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, set up its mobile phone venture in Haiti in 2005. Until its arrival, operators Comcel-Voilà (now Voilà) and Haïtel controlled the mobile phone market. When Digicel entered the Haiti market, its economic impact was almost immediate. Within two years, Digicel contributed to more than 15% of the Haitian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Meanwhile, paired with its two competitors, the contribution of all three was more than 25% of the GDP.

During the years 2005-2009, Digicel invested more than $250 million in Haiti’s economy which led to more than 60,000 jobs. Not only had Digicel poured into Haiti’s bottom line with job creation, in a market with two telecom competitors, but it was also able to account for almost 30% of tax revenue. The company has definitely been working on poverty eradication in Haiti.

In 2012, Digicel acquired Voilà, which substantially increased its market share penetration and helped maintain its presence. All of this occurred despite the fact that Haiti had experienced a major earthquake that displaced 5 million people and killed 250,000 people in 2010 on top of the devastation of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy that occurred in 2012. Those setbacks have not derailed Digicel as of 2020. The company is still strong as it continues to provide innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti by keeping the country connected.

Education: Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Many have proven and echoed that children are the future and that they need to have exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to keep pace with the future innovative job market. Haiti’s challenge is that it lacks some capabilities and resources as an underdeveloped country.

Enter the NGO, Pennies for Haiti. This NGO’s long-term goal is to end Haiti’s series of poverty by providing sustenance and educating the country’s children. Meanwhile, its short-term objective is to equip Haiti’s children through education as a means to help them rise above their current situation. While Pennies for Haiti has several ongoing projects that serve 200 people a year, two of the projects focus on education.

The first is Haiti STEM Alliance, which is open to both boys and girls. The second is STEM 4 Girls, which places emphasis on girls. While both of these projects pour their energies into helping each participant achieve higher education and realize the vast employment opportunities in STEM, the difference is that STEM 4 Girls delves into personal growth and the benefits of higher learning. Pennies for Haiti hopes to instill in young women how STEM jobs can open the door to economic freedom.

In addition, the organization visualizes engaging an abundance of youth in the STEM industry as it will create more opportunities for technology and automation careers in Haiti. Pennies for Haiti is counting on the success of both of these programs with a focus on poverty eradication in Haiti and to boost Haiti’s image to the world and make them attractive to those companies who are looking to subcontract jobs as well as showing that they are a leader in gender equality and STEM careers.

Entrepreneurs

People may not know Haiti as a startup oasis, but over 75% of its residents operate some type of business to supplement their income. As a result, it is evident that Haiti is full of citizens who have demonstrated they can build, operate and sustain their own companies. Their startups range from fresh markets to tech platforms, and these enterprises are redefining the Haiti business culture.

One citizen, Christine Souffrant Ntim, who founded the Haiti Tech Summit (2017), has firsthand experience. She answered her entrepreneurial call as a youngster by helping her grandmother and mother sell goods in the streets of Haiti.

The Haiti Tech Summit brings together entrepreneurs, stakeholders, superstars and visionaries to address humanity’s extreme difficulties via tech and entrepreneurship. It has generated tangible results in its short existence such as helping an Airbnb sign a five-year multiple year contract with Haiti’s governmental branch that specializes in culture, tourism and the arts. Also, Facebook launched Haiti’s initial globally recognized grassroots pioneer group in 2017.

The Haiti Tech Summit’s success is based on the Ecosystem Map methodology, a vigorous arrangement of unified organizations that rely on each other for shared survival. As the Summit gains more energy and notoriety across the globe, Ntim’s focus is for the association to become the world’s next major tech innovation hub by 2030.

Poverty eradication in Haiti has made positive headway as it continues to rebuild its community and successfully learn how to navigate a technology-driven society. It has the existing tools to help bridge the gap with the main ingredient, being themselves. With the assistance of foreign aid, continued support of educational equality, especially among girls and entrepreneurs mobilizing the next generation, Haiti should be ready to move into the future with momentum.

Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Pixabay

astronomy in developing countriesThe night sky has always been a catalyst for the imagination and a defining aspect of culture – gods have been forged out of planets and myths sewn out of the arrangement of the stars. Now that humanity has the technology to discover the universe in greater depth, the night sky once again has the opportunity to be a force for development through the implementation of astronomy in developing countries.

Using Astronomy for Development

In 2011, the International Astronomical Union and the South African Research Foundation developed an Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), which was designed to actualize their goals of worldwide astronomical participation and interest. The OAD has several goals they hope to achieve, such as cultivating astronomy in developing countries, stimulating global development through astronomy, encouraging astronomy as a method of education and contributing to at least half of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. Since the OAD was founded, it has already made tangible progress toward achieving its goals. For instance, in 2016 the OAD developed astro-tourism programs in Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. These programs facilitate tourism for both ancient and modern astronomical sites in those countries. 

The OAD also partnered with organizations in Madagascar to initiate LAMPS, a program that seeks to educate young people in the town of Arivonimamo on fundamental scientific and mathematical principles as well as the application of STEM fields from the astronomical perspective.

Astronomy in History

The idea of using astronomy to cultivate development is not unique to the modern era; in fact, astronomy was an integral part of some of the most influential civilizations in history.

One of the first societies to understand and utilize the night sky were the Polynesians, who thousands of years ago memorized the rising and setting of the stars. They used this knowledge to navigate the seas and eventually developed a star map that helped them settle the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Astronomy and advancements in culture seem to go hand in hand. In Ancient Greece, many of the mathematical principles that were developed, and still used today, were spurred by interest in the night sky and our place in the universe. Trigonometry was discovered because of philosophers’ interest in understanding the heavens. Eratosthenes, for example, used trigonometry to approximate the circumference of the Earth by measuring the angle of the sun’s shadow in two different cities during the summer solstice.

Modern Context

In the 21st century, ships use satellites to navigate the sea, and the circumference of the Earth has been precisely calculated (24,901 miles), but that doesn’t mean the importance of astronomy in developing countries is exhausted.

People, and especially women in developing countries, have less access to STEM education, but that can change if international organizations bring concepts and educators from applied sciences to these countries. Not only would students there be better equipped to find reliable careers, but astronomy in developing countries would also provide the opportunity to understand and contribute to humanity’s understanding of the universe and Earth’s place in it.

– Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

mobile STEM labsSTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes train the innovators of tomorrow to cultivate their problem-solving abilities and to be curious about the world around them. In remote villages throughout the continent of Africa, however, students often go through school without access to rigorous STEM training. As a result, many lack the tools to succeed in higher education and in the modern workplace. Mobile STEM labs have now presented a solution to this problem.

STEM on Wheels

Mobile STEM labs travel to schools in custom vehicles that can accommodate up to a full classroom of students. The labs often specialize in topics that under-resourced communities struggle to provide. Some of the most popular topics include electronics, computer skills and even 3-D printing.

The organization STEMpower manufactured its first mobile STEM lab in Ethiopia. The lab’s inaugural visit to a public high school 45 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa. During the visit 14 students participated in a three-hour Arduino microcontroller training session. Meanwhile, 22 others learned coding on laptops provided by STEMpower.

STEMpower reports that the students engaged in the lab programming with enthusiasm and perseverance. In addition, it found that the mobile experience closely mirrors that of stationary STEM centers. As it begins to prepare for expanded coverage and a sustainable future, the organization hopes that the next mobile lab will run on solar power.

More than Microscopes

Many labs also extend their work beyond the classroom. When the Togolese-owned company MOBILELABO travels to under-resourced schools and conducts experiments with the students, for example, it prioritizes community outreach as well. The company hosts science fairs, launches science clubs and sponsors radio/television series dedicated to answering scientific questions.

While the mobile labs themselves eventually move onto other villages, each leaves a lasting influence in its wake. MOBILELABO alone has installed permanent laboratories in 10 schools. Additionally, the organization has sold over 500 science kits demonstrating the basic principles of physics, chemistry and biology. The company also provides rigorous teacher training in each school that it visits.

As of now, MOBILELABO has prompted over half a million disadvantaged students throughout Togo and Benin to pursue the sciences. Founder and director Dodzi Aglago says that his company will continue to work toward its goal of reaching as many communities as possible and establishing permanent laboratories in all African schools.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a temporary halt to STEM lab travel, many lab teams have shifted their focus to designing and distributing medical equipment to local hospitals. They hope to resume full operation in schools as soon as possible.

STEM and Economic Growth

Mobile STEM labs have paved the way for new opportunities across the continent. The African Union (AU) recognizes the importance of STEM education as a means to promote long-term economic growth. According to Aspiration 1 of Agenda 2063, the organization intends to reform classroom curricula as part of its 50-year development plan. These changes will highlight hands-on learning and the real-world applications that mobile STEM labs emphasize.

Continuing the work of mobile STEM labs across the continent, the AU aims to see students armed with the tools to lift themselves and their family members up out of poverty. In the future, the organization hopes that more African graduates will start taking positions in STEM industries.

As STEM education begins to take off in African school systems, leaders envision generations of students animated with creativity, curiosity, self-reliance and a desire to make their world a better place.

– Katie Painter 
Photo: Wikimedia

Companies Fighting for Women's Rights
Women around the globe are still fighting for a world in which they can receive equal treatment. In many developing countries, women are more vulnerable to human rights abuses and others often deny them opportunities to reach their full potential. Here are three technology companies fighting for women’s rights.

3 Tech Companies Fighting for Women’s Rights

  1. IBM: The multi-national technology company has celebrated the success of women throughout its history. IBM has had a female CEO since 2012 and has been strategic in empowering women throughout the company and around the globe. For International Women’s Day, IBM Systems Lab Services created a #BalanceforBetter campaign. The campaign engages employees around the world to advocate for women’s rights. IBM employees held up signs challenging stereotypes and biases, celebrating IBM women and supporting gender equality. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) gives women and girls across the globe the opportunity to thrive. Additionally, the organization supports organizations that serve women in 40 countries. These organizations support economic growth, health care and violence prevention among others. In Ghana, an IBM team paved the way for educating girls in rural communities. In Kenya, India and Mexico, IBM has supported organizations preventing violence against women. Additionally, in Peru, IBM supports initiatives increasing cervical cancer screenings. Through these efforts, IBM hopes to empower and protect women, while continuing to bridge the gap between women and STEM.
  2. Microsoft: For years, Microsoft has used its research technology for good to protect vulnerable populations. For example, the organization has partnered with WorldPop to count every person on Earth. By using Microsoft Azure, organizations can track the location and distribution of vulnerable populations. Microsoft hopes to aid in the creation of programs and policy changes that protect vulnerable populations and empower women. Microsoft researchers recognize that women are more vulnerable to poverty. However, they also recognize that pulling them out of poverty has exponential effects on their families and communities. In January 2020, Microsoft partnered with Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to launch a women empowerment campaign. Through this initiative, all organizations hope to empower women through the development of practical skills necessary for the workforce. Since 2014, Microsoft has also had an ongoing partnership with the Central Department for Community Development, aiming to tackle unemployment and economic issues through the empowerment of women in Egypt.
  3. Google: Another prominent tech titan among companies fighting for women’s rights is Google. The company equips young women with skills they need to thrive in the tech world and advocates for gender equality around the world. For example, Google’s partnership with Technovation Girls empowers young women around the globe to learn and develop technology that will impact their community. Technovation is a tech education nonprofit that empowers individuals to problem-solve, create and lead. Each year through its Technovation Girls program, the organization invites young women from all over the world and equips them to solve real-world problems through technology. Google is a platinum sponsor and has hosted these young innovators to pitch their apps at the company’s main campus in California for the chance to win scholarships. Additionally, in Google’s Arts and Culture section, the company has created a “Women in Culture” page, celebrating women in a variety of different fields. The page highlights women like Dolores Huerta, creator of the United Farm Workers, who advocated for the rights of impoverished farmers in Central America. It also features the unheard stories of women in India who have impacted Indian culture. Above all, the page champions women’s equality around the world, highlighting many unsung female heroes who have fought against injustice.

Why It Matters

An increase in women’s rights around the globe can have drastic effects on the global economy. According to U.N. Women, there is a very strong connection between empowered women and thriving economies. Providing women with job opportunities increases productivity and growth within economies. Supporting women through health care and education can also protect them from potential violence and discrimination. Large companies fighting for women’s rights have the potential to use their prominent platforms to advocate for women and to reflect these values within their own companies.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women around the globe account for 35 percent of students enrolled in higher education science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a 2017 UNESCO report. However, by the end of tertiary education, women only comprise less than 3 percent of information and communication technology (ICT) graduates.

These numbers indicate a failure of educational systems to retain girls in STEM. This results in a deficiency of women in STEM jobs, which is especially alarming because these STEM careers drive innovation, inclusive growth and sustainable development. To address this challenge and improve the participation and achievement of girls in STEM, several organizations are amplifying girls’ STEM education in developing nations.

5 Organizations Investing in Girls’ STEM Education in Developing Nations

  1. Indian Girls Code: Founded in 2013 by two sisters, the Indian Girls Code offers free coding and robotics education for underprivileged girls in India. The initiative began in multiple cities as an afterschool program and summer camp for girls as young as 4 and 5 years old. It has since expanded to include weekly classes for 75 primary school students at Annai Ashram, an all-girls orphanage in Trichy. Indian Girls Code believes a hands-on education inspires creativity and innovation. As such, students are taught using Scratch, an open-source software, and Phiro robots, which are programmable, Lego-compatible toys
  2. Tech Needs Girls: Tech Needs Girls is an educational initiative based in mentorship that aims to equip young Ghanian girls with skills in coding and information technology. The organization has 200 mentors, who are all either female computer scientists or engineers; these mentors have collectively trained more than 4,500 girls — many of whom come from extreme poverty conditions. Girls between the ages of 6 and 18 are encouraged to participate by gaining knowledge of the basics of computing, set up blogs and develop software applications. The founder of Tech Needs Girls, Regina Agyare, an IT graduate and entrepreneur, hopes that teaching girls about technology will enable them to become economically empowered, self-confident and passionate.
  3. Code to Inspire: As the first coding academy for girls in Afghanistan, Code to Inspire has taught 200 high-school girls to code and build mobile applications and games. Since the organization’s launch in 2015, more than 70 percent of the students have graduated and continued on to find work with above-average compensation. The founder of Code to Inspire, Fereshteh Forough, aspires to help close the gender gap in STEM by teaching Afghani women the skills to achieve financial and social independence and stability. Forough sees coding as uniquely valuable to female economic empowerment — since coding can be done remotely, female software developers can work from home while building a career.
  4. Pearls Africa Foundation: Located in Nigeria’s Silicon Valley, GirlsCoding, a free program run by the Pearls Africa Foundation, is educating girls in the fields of coding and software development. GirlsCoding offers weekly courses in digital literacy to underserved and underrepresented girls between the ages of 7 and 18. Since 2012, the initiative has educated more than 400 girls. GirlsCoding also helps promote the continuation of tech education and careers by introducing students to different tech companies in the region. In the future, GirlsCoding hopes to expand to different states in Nigeria.
  5. She Will Connect Africa: An initiative of Intel, She Will Connect Africa, has trained more than 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in digital literacy since launch in 2013. She Will Connect Africa aims to expand to reach five million women by the end of 2020. The program operates in two main ways. First, She Will Connect Africa partners with nongovernmental organizations to integrate face-to-face digital learning into development programs targeting women and girls. Second, the initiative also partners with job placement organizations to enable women to access continued opportunities in STEM.

With technological change accelerating, a continued failure to develop girls’ STEM education will diminish the potential of half the global population. However, by investing in girls’ STEM education in developing nations, these five organizations are driving innovation and women’s economic participation. These goals are highly cost-effective and thoughtful investments; closing the gender gap in digital fluency will open work opportunities for women, contribute to national economic growth and help achieve larger gender parity.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

girlsinsouthafrica
From June 24 through July 5 2019, Vodacom initiated its Code Like a Girl program in South Africa. In South Africa 70 girls were provided with the opportunity to take classes in engineering, math and coding. While one purpose of the communications company’s program was to narrow the gender gap, it means more for the country as a whole; it means the chance for sustainable jobs and prepares South Africa for the industrial revolution affecting all developing countries.

Early Stages of Code Like a Girl

Vodacom is a company based mainly in South Africa and nearby countries that is focused on mobile communications. It manages phones and data much like other companies, such as Verizon and Sprint, but on a more local scale. Even back in 2018, the company made plans to offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to girls in different provinces and hopefully spark an interest in these courses.

The inspiration for this plan derived from a lack of female participation in STEM courses because only 35 percent of girls pursued any kind of career in these fields. Women are also underrepresented in STEM careers, as most of them are male-dominated.

Steven Barnwell, an executive manager for Vodacom, commented that while this career gap is beginning to close globally, “in many countries, including South Africa, the gap is widening in STEM careers.” Girls in South Africa with the backing of Vodacom’s coding program might be encouraged to pursue these daunting careers, now equipped with the know-how to prosper.

Initiating the Initiative

Phoenix, a township in South Africa, documented the course of the Code Like a Girl initiative in its local news. Managing executive Chris Lazarus detailed the process and how the girls chosen benefitted.

Firstly, 70 girls in the province of KwaZulu Natal, ages 14 through 18, had been selected to learn code. They were also advised to study communications as well as science and technology subjects. Participating in both STEM subjects and Vodacom’s initiative would foster problem solving and creative thinking.

Throughout the one-week course, the girls in South Africa learned the language of the computer and how to operate programs for developers such as GitHub and JavaScript. Finally, at the end of the week, each girl presented a website she developed by herself.

Lazarus proposed that providing coding skills allows girls to thrive in the transition to a technologically developed nation, saying “we aim to have young girls excel in the fourth industrial revolution. Through our project, we want a future free of the gender inequality, more so when it comes to jobs of the future.”

Looking at the Other Benefits

Currently, South Africa boasts one of the highest information, communications and technology (ICT) markets in Africa. ICT products and service cultivates in the markets. IT jobs, therefore, are currently sought after as the economy begins to focus on its thriving industry. Girls in South Africa pursuing coding now have the opportunity to jump into the influx of jobs, securing a sustaining and well-paying future.

While the economy prospers, 30.4 million citizens still remain in poverty. Nearly half of South Africa’s black females live below the poverty threshold, and many schools remain under-resourced. However, with Code Like a Girl spreading across provinces, girls living in poverty are presented with a unique opportunity and education when the program reaches their school. A gap then not only lessens between gender, but economic class as well.

South Africa is also on the brink of a digital revolution. Communities still remain in the process of transitioning to cellphones and schools are adopting technology in their classrooms, requiring both teachers and students to adapt. Girls inspired by Vodacom’s program may find themselves with an edge, already accustomed to the confusing languages of technology while the rest of society is still getting used to it.

Matimba Mbungela, Vodacom’s Chief Officer of Human Resources, commented to ITWeb Africa in regards to the students’ situation, saying, “it [is] necessary for us as the country’s leading digital telco to take it upon ourselves and launch this initiative to prepare young females, so they can adapt skills of the future and contribute in taking our economy forward.”

Inspired by ‘Code Like a Girl,’ girls in South Africa will find a unique position in society amidst the ever-changing world of technology.

– Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

education in Malaysia

In March 2019, Malaysia’s Minister of Education, Dr. Maszlee bin Malik, recently partnered with Microsoft’s STEM4ALL initiative to provide a higher level of STEM education in Malaysia. STEM4ALL stays true to its name, targeting all students across the country equally to encourage interest in STEM fields and ensure graduates possess a wide span of technological information to take into future careers.

Malaysia’s Current Educational System

In 2018, Malaysia had 9,404 children under the age of 18, which is 29 percent of the total population in 2018. Out of those children, 2,565 of them are under the age of five when many children are starting pre-school or kindergarten. Pre-school is not compulsory in Malaysia, but it is available.

Malaysia currently has six years of primary compulsory education, from ages six to 12. Secondary education is not compulsory as of 2018. Primary enrollment had increased from 2,770,340 to 2,795,058 between 2015 to 2017. Unfortunately, primary school enrollment rates dropped to 2,693,318 students enrolled in 2018. Secondary enrollment in 2018 was lower at 2,041,798 students.

Microsoft’s STEM4ALL

Microsoft has been known for assisting educational programs throughout South Asia within recent years with notable programs in India and Sri Lanka. STEM4ALL is Microsoft’s latest venture to emphasize STEM education throughout primary and secondary schools around the country. The campaign targets students, parents, educators and lawmakers around the country to put STEM education at the forefront of school materials to keep up with the current demand in technological field advancements.

The program encourages after-school STEM programs in multiple schools around Malaysia, impacting an estimated 100,000 students. Microsoft’s campaign is working to target all students regardless of social situations. STEM4ALL is meant to reach both urban and rural school areas to improve education in Malaysia overall. The program hosted a panel to discuss Malaysian STEM education and discussed the impact of AI on the educational and workforce environments throughout the country.

Key Events from the STEM4ALL Conference

The panel discussion, hosted by the Prime Minister of Education, included two prominent students in the world of technological advancements. The two students were Serena Zara Taufiq, the CEO of an outreach for children with autism called ‘Serena’s Secrets,’ and Chloe Soh Ke Er, who debuted her latest robot to help with agricultural management at the conference.

The conference focused on the recent impact of AI and technology on future job environments. Artificial Intelligence is shaping career paths around the world, and Microsoft is working to ensure that all students are gaining an efficient skillset to keep up with technology changes. Using new technologies will also improve learning techniques through classrooms in Malaysia.

Microsoft School Partnerships

Microsoft recently began funding the AI Business School for current business leaders throughout Malaysia. The classes will infuse more technological skills into the current business world to keep up with changes in current job markets. Students who succeed in the STEM classes will have more opportunities in the business world to use their education.

Through STEM4ALL, Microsoft has also partnered with Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka as a pilot school for the ‘Microsoft Professional Program for Data Science Curriculum’ (MPP). This is the largest version of the MPP program in the educational world. MPP is starting with 250 students to gain Microsoft data science certifications and improve the overall quality of education in Malaysia. The program’s goals align with the national goal to educate 20,000 data scientists by 2020.

Microsoft’s STEM4ALL campaign is expected to have a massive impact on the students of Malaysia. The campaign impacts all students regardless of major and education track. It ensures that proper technological knowledge is embedded in school systems across the country. The program will also ensure that education in Malaysia is adapting positively with the ever-changing technological environment in the workforce inside and outside the country’s borders.

Kristen E. Bastin
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
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