The Challenge to Improve the Future of ICT
The aim of the Techno Teens Program is to develop the capacity for technology producers as opposed to consumers
by introducing teenagers from the age of 12 to build computers and write software programs. Focus in terms of
Information Communication Technology (ICT) in South Africa has been on building computer resource centres and
computer literacy. These have focused on the “user” or consumer aspects of computing. The focus of the Techno Teens
Program is to develop future ICT producers, innovators and engineers and can help to address a number of challenges
we face currently face.
The Quality of Entrants into University
Teaching teenagers to build computers and write software programs at high school is essential to building a
strong pool for the university undergraduate programs. Academics are frustrated by the lowering quality of high school
graduates entering university with inadequate basic numeracy, reading and writing skills.
There is a lack of interest in engineering and sciences which are seen as being too difficult. Children from
disadvantaged and rural communities lack experience and access to develop an understanding of the context and need
for many of the formal problem solving theory and methodology.
Building computers at a young age helps to build both interest and confidence. It provides context to many of the
theoretical work they are being asked to do. It introduces full sensory learning – auditory, visual and tactile.
Students who may not respond well in classroom situations may develop an interest in developing logical thinking.
Visual learning and principles of geometry will help to develop a better understanding of mathematical and logical concepts.
Most students find writing a software program and coding a very challenging activity. We use basic letter writing as a
way of introducing programming and developing the confidence to write instructions to people and machines by developing
Many matriculating students are not exposed to university programs in ICT. This is often due to the way programs are
promoted by universities into high schools and the fact that computing curriculum in universities is often spread across
faculty degree programs. High school students are exposed to faculty programs and qualifications such as arts, commerce,
engineering, science, medicine, etc. The computing curricula is spread across faculty qualification programs –
computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information technology, information systems in commerce and
informatics in social art and science.
There is a need to promote computing careers at high schools and matching talent and skills. Through the Techno Teens
program we can register and monitor each student and track their development. By tracking the talent pool, we can help
match students to the appropriate degree programs that are available and help universities to identify talent more proactively.
This will enable access to disadvantaged children who have the foundation to succeed in a higher education program and career.
Peer Program and Social Development
The Techno Teens Program is unique in that it encourages peer interaction and collaboration between students.
Each teenager that is equipped with these skills is encouraged to share their knowledge with others and help introduce
them into the program. The program is intended to be a life-long program of learning and networking.
Technology and social media is used to empower teenagers to stay in contact and continue to learn and teach each other
about technology. It will enable interaction across students from different socio-economic groups to share a common
interest and to share what they know. We intend developing awards and recognition programs that leverage collaboration
and projects by students across geographical boundaries.
Sustainability and Poverty Alleviation
When we talk about ICT education for the masses today, we are referring to computer users rather than producers.
Basic computer literacy is on using software applications such as word processors, spreadsheets and graphic applications.
While this may help in equipping students with basic office computing skills as workers, imagine a society where the basic
skills taught involve producing computer hardware and software and not just consuming it.
Consider that African digital story-telling is on the increase despite the cost of equipment. Film makers and producers
in Africa are finding ways to tell their stories. With the advent of new media and social networking, the need to develop
these technical skills to build computers and write software may help establish a new generation of African technologists
and creative innovators.
While it may seem that the cost of computer parts and computers (which can be in the hundreds and thousands or South
African Rands) seems unattainable for the poor, consider the value of having the skill to build such a product or to
write a software program. A person that is able to build a computer can earn a few hundred or thousands of Rands.
Imagine further if the millions that are currently excluded from the technology driven knowledge economy became
participating producers and consumers. These are the kind of skills that have huge potential to benefit small businesses,
schools, communities and households.
We want to develop all teaching and learning content as Open Source content and encourage Open Source Software development.
We will assist schools and provide teacher training programs. We want to develop schools through this program as important
self-sustaining enterprises in their communities. Rather than donating computers, we want to use the program to assist
schools in developing partnerships with computer suppliers, small medium enterprises, corporate social entrepreneurs,
professionals, workers and households. Students and schools with a broader partnership can use this program to help produce
computers for their communities and for small businesses.
The Techno Teens Program would like to help develop these partnerships and assist schools to develop a sustainable model
to address the issues of poverty and lack of infrastructure and resources at primary and high schools. There is often a
frustration in poorer communities with lack of access and infrastructure. People in these communities are often introduced
into the use of technology but don’t have access to the telecommunications and hardware infrastructure or partnerships that
can enable them to have access on an ongoing basis.
Techno Teen Program
The Techno Teen Program was developed to empower teenagers at high schools with technical computing skills.
The program teaches teenagers how to build personal computers and to write software programs. The program uses practical
workshop style training to support and encourage learning of more advanced computing theory.
The program is aimed at High Schools, particularly disadvantaged schools. The original curriculum was developed and
delivered to assist previously disadvantaged students at University who had limited or no opportunity and access to
computing and introduce them into software programming. The curriculum was piloted as a Summer Camp to High School
students between the ages of 12-17 in Cape Town and has been extended to outlying schools in the Western Cape.
The Techno Teen Program includes the following:
Provide Training to Build Computers at High Schools
- Training Teenagers at High Schools to Build Personal Computers
- Assist Teenagers at High Schools to Build and Sell Computers and Support Household Incomes
- Partnering with Hardware Component Providers and Black ICT Companies to Support High School ICT Learners
- Assist High Schools to Use Computing for Social and Economic Development in their Communities
Provide Training for Future Software Engineers at High Schools
- Training Teenagers at High Schools to Write Software Programs
- Providing Software Engineering and Java Programming to High Schools
- Partnering with Industry Trainers, Software Engineers and Professionals
Provide Teaching Support for ICT at High Schools
- Training Teachers to Deliver ICT Training
- Provide Free and Open Curriculum and Content for ICT Training
Improve Pool of Candidates into University and Industry Programs
- Develop a New Generation of Learners that are ICT Producers and not just Consumers
- Training Teachers and Career Guidance Counselors on University and Industry Programs
- Promoting University Computing Programs at High Schools
- Establishing a Database of Talent, Assisting in University Application and Entry into Computing Programs and Associated Faculties (Engineering, Sciences, Commerce, Social Sciences, Arts, Design & Informatics)
Techno Teens is based on a social enterprise model aimed at developing ongoing and longer-term relationships
between high schools and associated partners from business, academia and government (the Triple-Helix model).
For more information:
Contact Person: Bridgetti Lim Banda