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Youth tech empowerment, for a better world

Technology can transform society. That impact can be even greater, when it is placed in the hands of young people, writes Langa Dube, Regional Director at TCS South Africa & Rest of Africa.

by Tia

The clear commitment of government to helping our young people to succeed in the digital economy is encouraging and much needed. Many of the challenges facing our society will have to be solved by the youth entering the workforce in the next few years. And many of the tools they will need to solve these challenges will be those of the information, communications and technology (ICT) economy.

Digital empowerment of the youth is therefore critical. Government is to be lauded for initiatives like the recent Youth Tech Expo – as well as strategic platforms like the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Project. However, because the private sector is the primary driver of ICT innovation, it makes sense that private enterprise also helps to empower young people for the digital future.

Private-sector involvement

The private sector has long been in the vanguard of training and upskilling young people for the digital economy – not least because these are the skills that businesses need if they are to compete and succeed in highly competitive and increasingly globalised international markets.

At the same time, businesses have an interest in solving societal problems such as unemployment, climate change, water access, environmental issues, healthcare, and gender inequality. Solving these problems leads to a better, healthier world, with a more prosperous and actualised population, which all makes for economic growth and a more dynamic business environment.

It is also a business’s responsibility as a corporate citizen to help enhance the environmental, social and governance status of the community it works in.

The growing potential of the ICT ecosystem, in spaces like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, data analytics, digital twinning and machine learning, provide a multitude of possibilities to deliver on these goals.

This presents a double opportunity for businesses in the ICT space: they can empower young people with relevant digital skills that the market needs, while also equipping them to solve the social challenges facing today’s world.

At TCS, we have been fascinated at the possibilities that open up when young people are equipped with digital capabilities and given the chance to try to solve problems they are passionate about.

A youth platform for change

An initiative that exemplifies this is TCS Sustainathon, an innovation contest, and a platform for young people to become drivers of change, by using technology to solve real-world issues. TCS Sustainathon allows the youth to collaborate with private companies, non-profits and government agencies to co-create solutions to sustainability challenges.

For TCS Sustainathon South Africa 2023, we chose the theme of sustainable water and sanitation management – which are at the core of sustainable development. With 2.2 billion people globally lacking access to safe drinking water, and South Africa among the 30 driest countries in the world, this was a highly relevant topic.

Teams of entrants from colleges, universities and other South African academic institutions, developed ideas for solving our country’s water, sanitation problems, and helping to build a sustainable future.

Entrants got to work with TCS and event partners Geekulcha, Ubuhlebakhe Water, SkillsLab and the City of Tshwane municipality. Winners Team Amanzi Impilo from the University of Cape Town won R30 000 for their innovative solution, ‘The Use of Internet of Things (IoT) Technology in Grey Water Recycling for Non-Potable Uses’.

Unlocking practical, implementable ideas such as this, givesyoung people a chance to advocate for a more sustainable world – and the resources to make it happen.

We are proud to provide the annual TCS Sustainathon platform, and we are confident the ideas it generates will have a real impact on our society’s sustainability challenges. In fact, we are already seeing that impact through the platform’s winners:

“The TCS Sustainathon competition has given me a profound appreciation for the dynamic opportunities available in youth tech employment. This experience has highlighted how the industry values innovative thinking, problem-solving skills, and technical prowess, regardless of age,” reveals Msawenkosi Mkhize, 2023 TCS Sustainathon winner. “The competition underscored the importance of continuous learning and adaptability in an ever-evolving field.”

Mkhize went on to say that “it also connected me with a network of like-minded peers and mentors, illustrating that the tech industry is not only about cutting-edge technology but also about collaboration and community. This victory is not just a personal achievement but a testament to the potential that young people bring to the tech workforce. However, more work needs to ensure that these ideas do not die but get developed into real applications that can change the world.”
It’s up to all of us to ensure that young people are given the power to change the world for the better, using technology. This is the approach that will turn our society’s trajectory around. Youth innovation will be our world’s salvation.

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