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SA academy offers 400 data science internships

The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced 400 free internships for its 12-month Accredited Skills Data Science Programme in 2019.

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The announcement coincides with the opening today of registrations for next year’s intake. The Cape Town-based academy will also open a campus in Gauteng next year to accommodate its expanding student base.

Commenting on the announcement, EDSA co-founder Shaun Dippnall said: “We opened the Academy in January this year with 100 interns. Growing local demand for data scientists, however, has propelled us to quadruple the number of internships offered in 2019.” 

“These internships are sponsored by South African corporates drawn largely from the ICT, banking, insurance and retail sectors, which are leading the application of data science in their businesses to leverage competitive advantage,” Dippnall added.

BCX is a founding partner of EDSA, having injected R50-million into the training of 300 interns over three years. The investment has largely been fuelled by the growing demand for big data analytics and BCX’s recognition of the need for this skillset within the country.

“Data analytics is a field with the potential to grow the South African economy to new heights.  At BCX, we believe data science will allow businesses to make intelligent, data-driven decisions and propel South Africa to become a technology leader as we enter the 4th industrial revolution,” said Portia Maurice, BCX’s Chief Social Impact Officer.

“We are proud to be a founding partner of the EDSA, and believe that our focused strategy on developing disruptive future digital skills has the capacity to change the lives of many young South Africans.”

“In fact, we expect our efforts in the market to contribute to the overall growth of the ICT sector, which is estimated to be at a market size of R155-billion by 2020,” she added.

Gauteng Campus

Commenting on the decision to expand the EDSA’s current base at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock, Cape Town to Gauteng in 2019, Dippnall said:

“Corporate demand for data science talent has been immense and given that most of our sponsors for our 2019 student intake are Johannesburg based, it makes sense to provide a campus in Gauteng, facilitating the flow of candidates into their businesses.”

“Also, more than half of our current students are not from Cape Town and chose to relocate to be here for the programme.”

BCX again has taken the lead by being the first to sponsor the inaugural intake of students for the Gauteng campus, which will open its doors in January 2019.

Student Progress

Dippnall is overjoyed by the progress made by the current intake of interns and the proven success of the Academy’s online application process.

No restrictions to entry, nor are formal qualifications required for the one-year Accredited Skills Data Science Programme.  Applicants should be between 17 and 35 years of age and must pass a series of challenging aptitude tests, an on-line data science boot camp, a case study and an interview

“We have had a 98 percent retention rate, which is extremely high, given the complex and highly technical nature of the course.

Of the 100 interns selected from the over 10 000 who applied for the 2018 intake, 32 were matriculants, with no previous training.

“What’s more students have already demonstrated their ability to begin solving real world problems – including an analysis of the water shortages in Cape Town, after just a few months of exposure to data science techniques and tools,” he said. 

A team from EDSA was placed third in a recent City of Cape Town-sponsored Hackathon.

Mirroring the workplace

The EDSA Accredited Skills Data Science programme is an agile, digital, peer-to-peer, modern education course that is Seta-accredited and teaches students new economy skills that are not offered on current platforms. In addition, AWS is Explore’s exclusive machine learning platform provider.

“Our course closely mirrors the demands of the workplace. Included in the curriculum are tools such as Python, PowerBI, SQL and Scikit-learn, which are routinely required when building data science applications. We have also added job immersion and self-paced project work, which both involve team dynamics and interaction,” Dippnall said.

While job placement at the end of the year is not guaranteed, Dippnall is confident that uptake of candidates will be strong given the shortage of skills. Stipends are available to cover the living expenses of successful candidates who are in financial need.

“We are particularly excited to be the first institution to offer a focused, comprehensive and free year-long accredited skills data science programme in the country that builds the relevant digital skills within our youth, so that they can thrive in the new economy,” Dippnall concluded.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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