Africa’s first private satellite will be launched in 2016. But scientists and engineers will not be behind this bold move – it is being powered by a group of South African high school girls, writes TAMMY PETERSEN.
Pupils from across Cape Town on Youth Day attended the launch of the ambitious project, run by the Meta Economic Development Organisation (Medo).
A shortage of technical skills required for building businesses motivated the company to launch a science, technology, engineering and maths focused programme, explained Medo CEO Judi Sandrock.
“The intention of this programme is not to be a once-off. It is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields,” she said.
She referred to the National Advisory Council on Innovation in April, confirming that in the 2014 matric results, only 7.6% of pupils passed maths with more than 60%, while 5.5% managed the same in physical science.
‘Technically passionate households’
The programme is crucial in reversing the legacy of apartheid which excluded maths and science from the curriculum of non-white children, the company said in a statement.
Today’s children are “not brought up in technically passionate households” and the number of technical degree applicants is decreasing year-on-year”.
The Medo programme has been designed to inspire young women to consider science, technology, engineering, and maths as a career.
These careers represent eight of the top 10 occupations in demand in the country, Sandrock pointed out.
At the launch, the girls were introduced to the programme through an interactive workshop.
Focused on creating their own jiggy bot – an electrical device which uses different mechanisms to light up a bulb, vibrate, and move – the goggle-wearing teenagers then assembled and soldered their creations with meticulous precision.
‘Space trek’ camps
This was part of the first stage of the project which introduces the women to electronics and the basics of practical science.
“Space trek” week-long camps will take place during the holiday following the end of the third term, where participants will design their satellite payload experiments and test them using high altitude weather balloons.
In December, extended school holiday internships to finalise payload designs will take place, and the satellite will be built for launch.
Absorbed in assembling her jiggy bot, Siddiqah Latief told News24 she never thought science could be so exciting.
‘I always thought it was for nerdy boys’
“It’s amazing to see how all these bits come together to create something so technical and amazing,” the Pelican Park High School pupil enthused.
“It has never been my favourite subject, but I am starting to love science. I always thought it was for nerdy boys. Now I am thinking of making this my career.”
Nina-Rose Clarke of Pinelands High School agreed.
“I never thought building things could be this interesting. I am loving this experience. It’s so exciting to be exposed to more than just drawing and studying ideas. Constructing stuff is so much better.”
The satellite is scheduled to be launched in the first quarter of 2016.
Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters
A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities
The use of cash-only payments was
Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.
According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68
Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.
The South African Perspective
Payments lie at the heart of every form of
Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.
Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”
Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel. However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with a broad set of stakeholder including mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies. From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel, whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”
Click here for the detailed global findings.
Women take to tech, but more needed
By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies
$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.
The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas. Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?
Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.
What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education? And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.
Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men.
Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.
The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists.
For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.
If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at https://www.women-in-tech-africa-summit.com/ and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.