Microsoft Philanthropies has announced grants for over 100 nonprofit organizations in 55 countries, including I Choose Life Africa (ICL) and The African Centre for Women, Information & Communications Technology (ACWICT) in Kenya. The grants are a component of the US $75 million commitment Microsoft made to increase access to computer science education around the world through Microsoft YouthSpark, as announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last year.
Microsoft is partnering with these nonprofits by providing cash grants, content and other resources they need to bring computational thinking and problem-solving skills to young people in local communities, important building blocks to help them succeed in today’s tech-fueled economy.
“Computational thinking and problem-solving skills will be relevant to every job in the future,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Through our partnerships with nonprofit organizations around the world, we aim to empower all youth to prepare for this future with the foundational knowledge of computer science to dream and create the innovations of tomorrow.”
The grant that Microsoft Philanthropies made to ACWICT will provide opportunities for 4,200 youth to learn computer science skills. Underserved youth will be introduced to computer science through in-person trainings on introduction to computer systems, hardware and software components, computer applications, programming and coding. Following the training, the young people participating in the program will be connected to internships and continued learning opportunities to advance their technical knowledge and skills.
“The future of the ICT sector is exciting. Coding (whether mobile or web-based) has become an essential skill across the world, simply because computer science is a fundamental skill for all 21st century careers”, said Constantine Obuya, Executive Director of ACWICT. “Through our partnership with Microsoft we are looking to create a community of coders who can provide sustainable technology-driven solutions to some of challenges that Kenya is experiencing in its service delivery processes.”
I Choose Life – Africa is focused on increasing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth with a special focus on providing digital, technology and computer science skills. To address the skills shortage within the vocational sector and provide youth with the skills they need to succeed, this program will provide youth with on-the-job trainings combined with digital literacy and computer science skills, including app development, coding workshops, and web design. 12,000 youth will be reached through this program.
“When I saw the advertisement for Chuo2kazi training program indicating that I Choose Life – Africa wanted to recruit and empower young people in a program supported by Microsoft, I thought it was a joke. Why would a corporation like Microsoft be involved in such an interior village like ours? I however applied, was interviewed and selected among many other youth. We were later trained on digital literacy skills and supported to get on job training with Vikrut. And now I know I have a chance in life” says John Kivai a program beneficiary of Chuo2Kazi project supported by Microsoft under the Youth Spark Grants.
Mike Mutungi, the CEO of I Choose Life – Africa (ICL) added that “the decision by Microsoft as a corporation to support programs such as Chuo2Kazi (Swahili for School to Work) and partner with local organizations to build the capacity of young people in readiness for employment and entrepreneurship is praiseworthy. The plight of unemployment for the youth like John Kivai is a ticking time bomb for Kenya. The financial and technical resources granted to I Choose Life – Africa by Microsoft under the Youth Spark Program will go a long way in changing the lives of many young people in marginalized communities for good by giving them lifelong skills”.
Public data available in Kenya underscores the need for greater access to computer science education. According to data from Bellwether research only 19% of Kenyan students between 15 & 16 years’ old report doing computer programming in or out of school and only 4% of University Students Graduate with 4-year University Degrees in Computer Science.
Closing the computer science skills gap and reaching young people on a global scale is a multi-faceted challenge that cannot be solved by one organization or solution alone. Microsoft’s partnerships with nonprofit organizations mean that more young people around the world—particularly underserved communities, girls and ethnic and racially diverse populations-will have access to computer science education, helping build skills critical for future success.
According to Microsoft Kenya Country Manager Kunle Awosika “The goal of computer science education is not necessarily for everyone to become a computer scientist or a software engineer. Regardless of the career they pursue, young people will benefit from understanding how technology works as well as how to create, apply and use it. And for those young people who are excited about pursuing a career utilizing computer science, we will show them how Microsoft can help them build their futures.”