Tyrone van Balla, a young South African entrepreneur, has designed a course for robotics and programming education in order to teach African children more about electronics and technology. His company, RD9 Solutions, provides accessible and affordable EdTech, or educational technology, with their innovative robots. Van Balla, originally from Cape Town, South Africa, grew up with access to a computer and now realizes how important it is for today’s children to be exposed to technology in order to be successful. As the global economy becomes more dependent on tech-savvy employees, it is imperative that Africa’s youth have the opportunity to learn these skills. That is exactly what van Balla and partner Ridhaa Benefeld plan to provide through various technologies at RD9 Solutions.
Access to technology and STEM education in many African countries is limited. In fact, UNESCO reported that only 22 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, let alone any further technology. This is exactly the issue which van Balla and Benefeld plan to address through their company. Additionally, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims to provide full access to education, training, skills and technology for Africa’s youth, which accounts for 19 percent of the global population aged 15-24 years, by 2063. The sheer quantity of young, working-age people in Africa has the potential to yield great economic benefit for the continent. With both the government and companies like RD9 Solutions working towards a common goal, there is the possibility for huge changes in the education sector in Africa.
With the help of MiiA, the robot that the two entrepreneurs created, students can be taught robotics and programming education for other technologies. Programming is one of the most valuable modern skills and MiiA the robot helps these children quickly learn how to be efficient programmers. Students are able to program MiiA robots to do simple actions like drive, dance and play ping-pong or soccer. Once the children learn more about programming, the possibilities with MiiA are limitless, as it can be programmed to do just about anything. A robot like MiiA is so useful in Africa because it operates as a self-teaching tool, so there does not necessarily need to be someone present that knows how to program. This allows children in all parts of the continent to become self-taught programmers.
In the next five years, van Balla envisions the robots being available all throughout Africa. He also plans on this technology having a lasting impact on African youth. With a growing job skills gap, it is necessary that the education systems in African countries capitalize on this opportunity for their young people. In fact, STEM jobs alone have grown over 17 percent in the past few years creating an immediate need for more skilled workers. MiiA robots will allow students to be exposed to educational technology at an early age and develop those skills throughout their time in school. Once they enter the workforce, their programming skills will be extremely valuable to potential employers.
– Jessica Haidet