Time and time again, we have been reminded that there is a huge pool of local technology talent among our youth, and especially our in our universities. All what they usually need is a push in the right direction and they surprise us with the kind of innovations and drive that they have up their sleeves.
Just about everyone who has made it to the top in their careers or even businesses has needed some help in one way or other – not just when starting out but even when they’re up there at the top. This help could range from something as simple as an encouraging word from a loved one, to something more structured like deliberate mentoring and monitoring. With continued demand for improvements in different areas of daily life, brilliant ideas are coming up left right and center and this is evident in the huge numbers entries that get registered into challenges and hackathons.
Take the Game of Learners hackathon that Microsoft has announced for example. This is a program that is geared towards encouraging undergraduate university students across Kenya to innovate more, and have fun while at it. The program has been developed by the Africa Development Center which was launched in Kenya in May last year and will be executed by Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors.
The Africa Development Center is based at Microsoft’s offices in Westlands and aims to empower beneficiaries who are not only young, enthusiastic and full of energy, but who also understand the unique challenges facing the continent and are therefore better placed to develop solutions. A generation of tech enthusiasts who have the zeal to take the country’s technology landscape to the next level by developing impactful solutions in different sectors. It follows that some of Microsoft’s major partnerships are with local universities.
So, what is GOL?
The Game of Learners (GOL) is a 5-week virtual hackathon with weekly sprints, at the end of which all participating teams will submit their final projects in 3-minute pitch videos for judging. It is structured as a 5-week virtual hackathon with weekly sprints where at the end of the 5th week, all participating teams will submit their final projects for judging.
The plan is to have a weekly challenge defined by the Microsoft Student Partners and each team lead will then dictate the rhythm of the weekly sprints. Microsoft will provide each team with resources throughout the challenge, and then evaluate and select winners based on weekly sprint submissions, judging and final submission, and involvement of the online community by way of twitter voting for the final submission. There will be 13 volunteers from Microsoft to mentor the students throughout the 5-week engagement and judge each team’s final project submission.
The original plan for this was to have GOL conducted at one of Microsoft’s partner universities but then COVID-19 came calling and that is how the hackathon ended up being virtual. This has actually meant that Microsoft has been able to reach more students to take part in the hackathon.
One year Azure credits for cloud services, One year LinkedIn learning vouchers, digital certificates and digital badge and one on one mentorship from preferred professionals. What is the value of mentorship to a budding tech enthusiast? I’d say it is absolutely priceless. The career world can look quite menacing to a new entrant, and even to seasoned and semi seasoned players since there is never an end to challenges.
Many people with brilliant ideas peer in, maybe give it a few pokes, get scared and just coil back. With time, some of their ideas regrettably die, whereas a tip here and a guideline there would have saved the day and made a difference in that person’s life as well as in the wider society and country. Mentors are people who have been there done that and know the possible pitfalls and how to get out of them. Most importantly, they know how not to fall into them in the first place and will guide a mentee around them.
In the 28 years that Microsoft has operated in this continent, empowering more and more people with the right skills has always been a priority and it plays back to the company’s mission to enable everyone to achieve more. GOL is one such initiative that gives students an opportunity to not only engage with one another, but also to believe in themselves and their abilities to change the world around them.
Digital transformation is here more than ever with no signs of slowing down and it is good to see our students having a platform to create solutions that may not necessarily end in Africa, but scale globally.