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Open source now a consumer play

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Ask almost anyone whether they are using open source software (OSS) and you are likely to be met by a blank stare. Many people would be surprised to hear that they are either using it on the mobile device they own or on their social media platform of choice, says MUGGIE VAN STADEN, CEO of Obsidian.

In short, the average person uses OSS daily and does not even know it.

Facebook is an open source (OS) platform that allows users to become their own moderators and content producers.

Mobile open source is becoming more prolific, as we can see through the uptake of Android in South Africa. Management consoles in new cars are starting to use Linux: most animated movies are rendered using Linux. So if you phone a friend to see if they can go to a movie, search online to book the movie, drive there and then enjoy the show, you have been aided by OSS technology throughout.

The popularity of sites like Google, LinkedIn and Twitter mean that most technology users have come to rely on OSS in some way in their daily lives.

Proponents of proprietary software might say that the growth of OSS is simply the result of coming off a very low base and that the majority of users still feel more comfortable in living their connected lives on a more “closed and stable”” platform.

But the flip side is also true. OSS does not only mean that it is the source code that is available for everyone to copy and distribute and change to their heart’s content. Certainly, those who want to programme and want to make their own software find a natural calling to OSS.

However, the majority of people do not really care how the software they are using came to be. But think about the concept of collaboration. This has been around for centuries. There is an often used saying that says it takes a village to raise a child. Today, the power of a community, in whatever shape or form, is essential for the success of most endeavours. If people do not work together but in isolation of one another, then goals will not be achieved nearly as effectively and the chances of failure are increased.

Collaborating means that people build something together and collectively act better than a single entity. The growth of Android is partly thanks to its ability to adopt to change much faster than proprietary systems. That has seen it become the dominant mobile platform globally.

The concept of open source extends beyond search engines and mobile devices. Today, you can find anything from open source hardware to aircraft and even beer.

The fact is that people enjoy working together. If the internet has shown us anything it is that communities of interest develop around those who share similar tastes and passions. This results in them inevitably starting to do things together to help grow those shared interests.

If you fancy yourself a decent home baker but want to take your skills to the next level, it is highly unlikely that one of the big multinationals will share some of their trade secrets or recipes with you. However, there are millions of people online doing just that. They are working together and sharing recipes and tips and tricks to enable the specific community to growth through shared knowledge.

And that is what open source is all about: empowering each of us to develop our skills as individuals through the power of working together. Yes, there might be financial rewards associated with that, but it is not the end goal. By doing something you are passionate about, you are giving yourself the opportunity to enhance and refine that skill and help other people do the same.

So the next time you switch on your phone, or post that message on a social network, take some time to think how a lot of these things would not be possible without OSS.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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Triggerfish launches free digital learning Academy online

Platform designed for anyone wanting to understand more about career opportunities in animation.

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Triggerfish, in partnership with Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has launched Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities and how to get started in the field of animation. 

The website features 25 free video tutorials, quizzes and animation exercises introducing animation as a career and the principles of storytelling, storyboarding and animation, as well as several additional resources to help guide aspiring animators into a career in animation. 

“The South African animation industry is growing – and so is the demand for skilled animators globally,” said Noemie Njangiru, head of Culture and Development at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, pointing to  the success of recent Triggerfish projects like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes; Mama K’s Team 4, recently announced by Netflix as their first original animated series from Africa; and this year’s New York Children’s Festival and Shanghai International Film and TV Festival winner Zog.  

Njangiru also highlighted the opportunities for animation outside the traditional film industry, within fields like advertising, app and web design, architecture, engineering, gaming, industrial design, medicine, and the motor industry, not to mention growth sectors like augmented reality and virtual reality

The course was created by Tim Argall, currently the animation director on Triggerfish’s third feature film, Seal Team. He’s roped in many of the South African animation industry’s brightest stars, from Malcolm Wope, character designer on Mama K’s Team 4, and Annike Pienaar, now working at Illumination in Paris on Sing 2, to Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the multi-award-winning BBC adaptations Stick Man and Zog, and Faghrie Coenraad, lead dressing and finaling artist on the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, as well as Triggerfish head of production Mike Buckland. The featured talent share not just their skills but also their stories, from how they broke the news they wanted to be animators to their parents, to common myths about the animation industry. 

“As kids, animation is part of our lives, so we don’t really think about the idea that animation is actually somebody’s job,” said Argall. “When I was a kid, I loved animation and I loved to draw. I remember when I was about 12, I thought: ‘I really want to see my drawings come to life. I want to be an animator.’ But I had no idea where to even begin.” 

Triggerfish Academy is his attempt to make it easier for the next generation of African animators: an accessible starter kit for anyone considering a career in animation. 

“By the end of working through this course, you’ll have all the background you need to know whether animation is a good choice for your career,” said Njangiru.  

Aspiring animators can also use Triggerfish Academyto learn how to write and animate their own short story, then post their animation on the Academy’s Facebook group for feedback and advice from professional animators. 

Triggerfish Academy is set up so that youth can play with it directly, but it’s also been designed to double as an activity plan for teachers, NGOs and after school programmes to use. Schools, organisations and other animation studios who are interested in using it can contact Triggerfish for additional free classroom resources.

Triggerfish Academy is just one of a number of Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators, like sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme. For more information, visit www.triggerfish.com/academy.  

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