“It takes a village to raise a child,” says an African proverb, which emphasizes the plurality of actors necessary to empower future generations. With the same idea in mind, UNESCO has supported SAP since 2016 to make Africa Code Week (ACW) the single biggest coding event worldwide. Initiated by SAP in 2015, ACW has engaged over 4 million youth and 50,000 teachers on digital learning.
Following the success of Africa Code Week 2018 which trained over 2.3 million students, teachers and trainers, the 2019 edition will take place in 37 countries across the continent and it sets out the most ambitious goals to reach out a further 1.5 million recipients of training.
The aim of Africa Code Week is to equip young African students with the digital skills they need to navigate the digital age. Coding, in particular, is recognized as a new form of literacy by experts at the international level and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has created a framework to measure it. The UNESCO ICT competencies framework for teachers, the ICT CFT, has also been updated to reflect the importance of coding as a digital competency. Through Africa Code Week workshops, students with little to no previous exposure to programming are introduced to coding through short, fun and inspiring workshops. Trainers use free and open educational resources such as Scratch, an MIT education program particularly adapts to young audiences.
As Claire Gillissen-Duval, Global Lead for Africa Code Week at SAP states “Africa Code Week aims to empower every child with the opportunity they deserve to be competitive in the world economy of the future. We are committed to empowering the next generation of leaders and technological innovators in the continent.” Davide Storti, UNESCO coordinator for Africa Code Week and the lead of UNESCO YouthMobile Initiative also emphasizes the importance of empowering young people, “The UNESCO YouthMobile Initiative is glad to support Africa Code Week and its 2019 edition. In a fast-changing world driven by digital technology, it is important that every child becomes a creative actor of localized digital solutions, not its passive consumer”.
Aware of the fundamental role that teachers play in shaping children’s education, ACW organizers also dedicate preliminary courses to training teachers and trainers. Teachers and trainers are enrolled in longer workshops that enable them to become Africa Code Week trainers themselves in order to have a long term, sustainable impact in spreading digital competencies in the continent. To strengthen the connection with teachers and highlight the commitment to reinforcing teaching capacity, the yearly launch of the ACW is scheduled on 5th October, which is the World Teachers Day.
Africa Code Week is devoted to uprooting negative gender biases that stigmatize women and girls. The unbalanced gender performance in digital field has been well identified by several studies, including the UN-led EQUALS report. In 2018, 46% participants of ACW were women and girls, and the 2019 edition aims to achieve gender parity.
The UNESCO YouthMobile Initiative is a UNESCO flagship programme with the worldwide mandate to expand access to information and achieve inclusive knowledge societies. The Initiative leverages the wide spread availability of mobile phones and increasing internet penetration to spread digital skills for sustainable development. In particular, UNESCO YouthMobile relies upon coding as a tool to empower its young students to create mobile phone applications and, through them, propose solutions to local challenges.