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Become a coder in October

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Coding has become the universal language of the future and holds the key to unlocking a brighter future for millions of youth across Africa. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of all jobs will relate to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) – and coding is expected to play a central role.

Every October since 2015, Africa Code Week has created opportunities for millions of youth to get introduced to the exciting world of computer coding through a series of interactive workshops held across the continent. This year, more than 130 partners and 120 ambassadors from 37 countries will combine forces for the fifth edition of Africa Code Week (ACW), which aims to introduce an additional 1.5 million youth to basic coding skills during the month of October.

Regardless of your level of skill or experience, everyone can be part of the excitement as we make this a Coder October. Whether you attend a workshop in your community or volunteer to share your skills and teach young Africans how to use coding in the service of transforming our continent, here are four ways take part in this year’s Africa Code Week:

1.     Attend a Live Workshop

Taking place at schools, universities, science centers or community centers during the month of October, ACW’s free coding workshops address specific age groups regardless of learner levels. Get yourself up to speed with fun learning tools and passionate teachers! Visit the ACW Map to locate a workshop near you.

2.     Access a Free Online Course

Learn Coding from Scratch: If you are between 12 and 16 years old and would like to learn computer programming, openSAP is the place to start. This free online course will teach you how to create your own animations and games using the famous Scratch interface.

Teaching coding using Scratch: openSAP also offers this free course for teachers eager to learn the skills they need to teach coding to young people using Scratch.

Both courses are also available in French on openSAP for teachers and youth in Francophone Africa.

3.     Host a Coding Workshop in Your Community

Why not support the planning and execution of workshops in your own community? You can visit the ACW website to download your full partner guide including a checklist of what you’ll need to host a successful coding workshop in your school or community.

4.     Become a Coding Instructor

Use your teaching skills for the greater good and visit the ACW website to see where Train-the-Trainer workshops are taking place in your country. While ACW takes place over a one- or two-week period every year, it is the local capacity building within schools and communities that will accelerate the sustainable development of 21st century skills across the continent.

Africa Code Week will be held in 37 countries across Africa throughout the month of October. Join SAP and partners – UNESCO Youth Mobile, Google, Irish Aid, The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and a fast-growing network of over 130 private, public and nonprofit partners – on their Africa Code Week mission to bridge the digital skills and gender gap in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To find out where your nearest coding workshop is taking place – or how to become a volunteer – please visit www.africacodeweek.org

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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