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Java course prepares coders

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The Java Post-matric Programme launched this year has just seen its first batch of students graduate. They are now completing six-month internships with leading digital companies.

A year ago, Storm Brown, 18, had little hope of continuing his education after high school, and thought it unlikely he’d be employed and on a career track any time soon. Today, however, he’s already spent three months in a paid internship, which has since been extended to a 12-month fixed term contract, at Cape Town-based custom software development house DVT, thanks to the Western Cape Government and Oracle’s Java Post-matric Programme.

The Java Post-matric Programme launched this year, with the goal of getting young coders ready for the corporate world as soon as possible after leaving school. The 37 students in this year’s cohort graduated on 5 October 2016 and are currently completing six-month internships with leading digital companies in the Western Cape. The post-matric programme is funded by Oracle Academy; the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism; and the Media, Information and Communications Technology Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA).

“This initiative showcases what we can achieve through partnerships between the public and private sectors,” said Provincial Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde. “The Western Cape Government has selected skills as a game-changer, with significant potential to grow the economy. This programme is playing an important role in delivering skills in the tech industry to our young people. They’re receiving the valuable on-the-job experience they need to start their careers.”

In 2016, On the Ball College and CapaCiTi implemented the programme, with On the Ball College delivering Java training to the participants, and CapaCiTi helping the students develop their business and professional skills.

The post-matric programme builds on an existing in-school programme, launched by Oracle Academy, the Western Cape Department of Education, and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism in 2014 to fill a gap in computing education. As part of the programme, over the past two years Oracle Academy and the Western Cape Department of Education trained 160 teachers in teaching Java, using Oracle Academy’s Alice and Greenfoot workshops, and the full academic curriculum in Java Fundamentals and Java Programming.

This is where it all started for Brown: he signed up for the in-school Java training programme for grades 11 and 12 when he was a learner at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Cape Town.

“Java is one of the most in demand coding skills around the world, and South Africa is no different. We are failing our learners if we don’t get them excited about the potential to create with Java,” said Provincial Minister of Education Debbie Schafer. “Through our school programme and now this post-matric extension, we are equipping school leavers for the working world, and giving them the best tools to innovate and solve problems using technology.”

Brown was hooked on Java from day one, to such an extent that his other IT grades rose dramatically and stayed high for the rest of his school career. “The world is moving faster and faster towards technology and we have to adapt,” he said. “I fell in love with Java because it is the leading scripting language in Africa and around the world, supported by a big company, and used in everything from cellphones to TVs.”

“Oracle Academy’s mission is to advance computer science education,” said Jane Richardson, senior director, Oracle Academy EMEA.  “This means we aim to help teachers build their computing knowledge and pedagogical skills, and then support them as they share their new or expanded expertise in computer science with students. In this case, we focused on Java to help grow student interest in programming and hopefully also a career in computing.”

“The skills we teach students through Oracle Academy and the Java Post-matric Programme are essential skills needed to boost the tech industry in South Africa,” said Wendy Beetge, transformation director at Oracle. “It’s been truly wonderful witnessing the growth in these students over the past few years – from knowing very little about coding when we started the school programme in 2014, to developing into skilled, confident and employable junior Java programmers by the end of the post-matric programme, ready for the challenges in a tech workplace.”

Training partner, On The Ball College is an Oracle Academy Partner and WDP (Work Development Programme) Partner with Oracle University, and has been running accredited training with MICT SETA for 10 years. The youth involved will benefit from this as they will receive accredited training that is aligned to the NQF, as well as industry needed scarce skills through Oracle University to be employable. “It’s a win-win situation for industry and the learner,” said Kim Palmer, managing director at On The Ball College.

“The MICT SETA uses these internship programmes to equitably distribute opportunities and bridge the skills gap of scarce and critical skills for all South Africans, particularly the youth. Exposing these students to workplace experience assists them to become employable,” says Jabu Sibeko, Senior Manager: Learning Programmes at MICT SETA.

CapaCiTi, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative’s flagship programme for job readiness, skills development and placement, was responsible for upskilling the students on the critical business and professional skills needed to be effective and successful in the workplace. It also tapped into its extensive network of corporates in the Western Cape and facilitated the process of connecting the students to companies looking for interns and entry-level coders.

“Upskilling students on business and professional skills — including insight into corporate culture, customer service, communication skills, personal branding and ethics — makes their transition into the corporate world far smoother, and ensures they have a real impact on the business from day one,” said Alethea Hagemann, head of the CapaCiTi skills development programme at CiTi. “It’s inspiring to see the candidates, who were in grade 12 only a year ago, thriving in the corporate world as interns and forming a clearer picture of the next steps in their careers.”

“This business readiness training had a tremendous impact on me,” said Brown. “From time management, to how to behave in an office, to communication skills. Recently I gave a speech to more than 200 people. It is thanks to the CapaCiTi training that I was able to do this.”

The wins that come out of the school and post-matric Java programme are multiple: school leavers are assisted with an important first step in their careers immediately after matriculating, fast-tracking their progress and earning potential; Western Cape-based digital companies develop a pipeline of in-demand Java coding skills; and the increase in skilled coders helps build a vital knowledge economy in the Western Cape and beyond.

“Our reason for getting up in the morning is to grow our information economy and create jobs in the Western Cape. Working back from that purpose, we know we can’t do this alone and need to mobilise the entire ecosystem to move in the same direction,” said Ian Merrington, CiTi chief executive officer. “This has been a perfect example of collaborating to solve a set of interlinked challenges in a way that sets us up for economic growth through nurturing our future innovators and makers.”

Meanwhile, for Brown, the most surprising thing about entering the workplace is how enjoyable it’s been. “It was so easy to fit into a software company,” he said. “I have such a passion for the work that it doesn’t really feel like work and every day is a happy day.”

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Security gets an upgrade – with a few glitches

Video doorbells are all the rage in the USA. Can they work in South Africa? SEAN BACHER tries out the Ring Video DoorBell 2 and Floodlight Cam.

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IP cameras have become synonymous with both business and home security. They are readily available, fairly inexpensive and, in many cases, easy to install.

Many are wireless, allowing one to place the camera anywhere within Wi-Fi range. As a result, they are a solution that can be customised to suit any type of security situation.

A world leader in doorbell security, Amazon subsidiary Ring, has recently extended its range of security devices, which now includes doorbells, floodlights, and Wi-Fi extenders, all designed to enhance and complement existing security beams and electric fences.

First up is the Ring Video DoorBell 2

It doesn’t look much like your normal intercom system, except for the miniature eye that keeps track of mischief that may be happening.  

Setting up is fairly easy. All one needs to do is connect it to the network by pushing the connect button, create an account on the downloaded smartphone app and get started with customisation and certification. Features like sensitivity, alerts, and numbers where these alerts need to be sent can all be preprogrammed. It is then just a matter of positioning the doorbell to get the best video coverage.

Getting the correct position may take some time, though, as cars and pedestrians may set it off. 

Next up is the Floodlight Cam

This works much the same as the doorbell. However, it needs to be mounted to a wall. Ring has you covered there: in the box you will find drill bits, screws and even a screwdriver to help you secure the camera. 

You will have to set alerts, phone numbers, and sensitivity. The spotlight allows you to change what time it should light up and shut down, and the package also includes an alarm, should its beams be broken.

Although this all sounds good, there are a few drawbacks to the Ring solutions. Firstly, unlike the United States, where doorbells are stuck in the vicinity of a front door, allowing them to connect to a network easily, many houses in South Africa have gates that need to be opened before one can reach the front door. This means that the bells are on or near the gate, and they are unable to connect to a home or business network.

Now, however, Ring has launched a Wi-Fi extender, but this requires an additional set-up process – and a fairly expensive one, considering the camera cost.

The Ring devices come with Protection Plans that automatically upload any triggered recordings to the cloud, allowing you to view them at a later stage. This trial period only lasts for 30 days, after which the plans can be extended from R450 for a three month period, up to R1 500 for a twelve-month period.

In practice

The attention to detail in the packaging and the addition of the tools really does put the Ring in a class of its own. No short cuts were taken in its design, and you can immediately see that it’s no rip-off. However, the Protection Plans need to be looked at carefully in terms of their costs.

Aside from this challenge, I found the devices very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response – while I was away. But I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

The devices are rather expensive, though, with the Video Door Bell starting at R3 500 and going up to R7 990, and the Floodlight Cam going for R5 000. It all adds up quickly.

The cost means these solutions may not be quite ready for the South African consumer looking for a complete external perimeter security system.

Despite the Protection Plans, I did find them very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response.

But, I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

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It’s not a ‘techlash’ – it’s a ‘tech clash’

By RORY MOORE, Innovation Lead, Accenture South Africa

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People’s love for technology has let businesses weave it, and themselves, into our lives, transforming how we work live and interact in this new world which we at Accenture are referring to – in our Tech Vision 2020 – as the “post-digital era.” But now we are being held back.

At a time when people see the potential of embracing technology more deeply into their lives, systems and services built for a old era are not supporting where people want to go. The next five years will see radical transformation as technology is realigned to better reflect people’s needs and values.

We look at the latest emerging trends that will transform how we live in work in this fundamentally different post-digital world.
Tech trend 1: “The I in experience” – helping people choose their own adventure

The next generation of technology-driven experiences will be those that make the user an active participant in creating the experience. Businesses are increasingly looking to personalise and individualise experiences to a greater degree than ever before, but are faced with stricter data regulations and users that are wary of services being too invasive. To address this, leading businesses are changing the paradigm and making choice and agency a central component of what they deliver.

Tech trend 2: “Artificial intelligence (AI) and me” – reimagining business through human and AI collaboration

Businesses will have to tap the full potential of AI by making it an additive contributor to work, rather than a backstop for automating boring or repetitive tasks. Until now, enterprises have been using AI to automate parts of their workflows, but as AI capabilities grow, following the old path will limit the full benefit of AI investments, potentially marginalise people, and cap businesses’ ability for growth. Businesses must rethink the work they do to make AI a generative part of the process. To do so, they will have to build new capabilities that improve the contextual comprehension between people and machines.

Tech trend 3: “The dilemma of smart things” – overcoming the “beta burden”

As enterprises convert their products into platforms for digital experiences, new challenges arise that, if left unaddressed, will alienate customers and erode their trust. Now that the true value of a product is being driven by the experience, a facet of the product that enterprises have traditionally retained strict control over, businesses must re-evaluate central questions: how involved they are with the product lifecycle, how to maintain transparency and continuity over product features, when is a product truly “finished”, and even who owns it?

Tech trend 4: “Robots in the wild” – growing businesses’ reach and responsibility

Robotics are no longer contained to the warehouse or factory floor. Autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and other robot-driven machines are fast entering the world around us, allowing businesses to extend this intelligence back into the physical world. As 5G is poised to accelerate this trend, every enterprise must begin to re-think their business through the lens of robotics. Where will they find the most value, and what partners do they need to unlock it? What challenges will they face as they undergo this transformation, and what new responsibilities do they have towards their customers and society at large?

Tech trend 5: “Innovation DNA” – creating an engine for continuous innovation

Businesses should assemble their unique innovation DNA to define how their enterprises grow in the future. Maturing digital technology is making it easier than ever before to transform parts of the business, or find new value in share tools with others. The three key building blocks of innovation DNA are:
Continue on the digital transformation journey
Accelerate research and development (R&D) of scientific advancements and utilise elements such as material sciences and genomic editing to ensure practical applications are leaving these labs quicker than ever before
Leverage the power of DARQ (distributed ledger technology, AI, extended reality and quantum computing) to transform and optimise the business
Differentiation in the post-digital era will be driven by the powerful combinations of innovation and these building blocks will enable exactly that.

It’s not a “techlash”, it’s a “tech-clash”

Essentially, this new digital world is more intimate and personal than ever imaginable, but the models for data, ownership, and experience that define that world have remained the same.

Tech-clash is a clash between old models that are incongruous with people’s expectations. The time to start transformation is now. To this end, businesses need to defuse the tech-clash, build human-centered models and foster deeply trusting relationships.

For more information on how Accenture can help enterprises adopt the latest tech trends to future-proof their businesses in the post-digital era, go to: https://www.accenture.com/za-en.

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