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  • Approximately 8.8 million young South Africans are not in employment, education or training.
  • A critical lack of accessible skills development programmes puts South Africa on the backfoot.
  • To address the looming crisis and upskill vulnerable youth, government has partnered with online course provider, Coursera.
  • Courses in Blockchain, Data Science, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Software Development, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all on offer.
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Government has unveiled a free online learning programme which focuses on digital skills, in a bid to address unemployment and improve digital literacy in the country, particularly amongst the youth.

South Africa’s unemployment crisis, exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns which have crippled the economy, ranks as one the world’s worst.

According to Statistics South Africa’s Third Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2020, 43% of young people aged 15 to 34 years are not in employment, education or training. This represents 8.8 million youth.

Led by communications and technology minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the programme is a collaborative effort between the National Electronic Media Institute of SA (Nemisa) and the American-based online course provider, Coursera. It is aimed at giving South Africa’s unemployed youth a fighting chance to thrive within the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

“It is our responsibility to get young people ready for the digital society that we are talking about,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams during the digital launch of the new learning initiative. “We will be building a capable 4IR army.”

The initiative is part of a plan to upskill one million unemployed youth by 2030.

Registration, facilitated by Nemisa, opened on 10 November, and applications close on 30 November 2020 – the programme’s initial uptake will be 50,000 students.

Successful applicants will be enrolled in courses as guided by Coursera’s Global Skills Index which has identified South Africa as emerging in business and technology but lagging in data science. “South Africa’s overall data science proficiency lags at 27%, ranked #44 globally,” noted Coursera. “Without the proper data science skills, South African businesses will struggle to expand and compete with organisations in more developed countries.”

Using a data-driven approach, the collaboration between Coursera and government has identified five focus sectors and associated courses:

  • Blockchain
  • Data Science and Data Analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) including Machine Learning
  • Software and App Development
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

Online courses offered through Coursera’s government collaboration include Application and Web Development led by the University of Virginia, University of Michigan, John Hopkins University, the California Institute of the Arts and Unity Technologies.

Data Science and AI studies feature courses from IBM, Google Cloud, and the University of Toronto.

Nemisa has noted that all available courses are offered in English and are exclusively online, which means applicants will need to have access to the internet.

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