TECH giant Huawei and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies have launched the 2021 edition of the Seeds for the Future programme.

The programme, which has been running for six years now, seeks to prepare ICT students for the future of work.

One of the  Chinese company’s many programmes, Seeds for the Future will see the latest batch of students learn about the latest 5G technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud. They will also learn Chinese language and culture, which will help with cross-cultural understanding.

The programme will also encourage students to participate in the digital economy, inspire local talent, enhance knowledge sharing and deepen interest in ICT.

This year, students will be taught how to use tech to address social and environmental challenges under Huawei’s Tech4Good programme.

Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaodong, Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan and the 12 students for 2021 attended the launch of this year’s programme on Monday. 

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni at the launch on Monday.

Coming in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has lashed the world for almost two years, the tech giant and the government hope to use the programme to empower students to tackle local and global issues using the latest technology.  

“Since the Seeds for the Future initiative was started in 2016, it remains important for our path of bridging the digital divide,” said Minister Ntshavheni. “As we open the Seeds for the Future programme, the technologies we deemed technologies for the future are here with us in full force.”

She added:  “I hope the students that are the beneficiaries of this initiative appreciate the value of this programme and act like true seeds and will multiply themselves for the benefit of our country, the SADC region, and our continent.

“The technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) can be quite difficult to understand”, said Spawn Fan, CEO, Huawei South Africa, “but as long as we keep learning, this will not be a problem.”

Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan.

 Fan said the country must take full advantage of  the emerging technologies driving 4IR and must have people with the necessary skills and leadership to move South Africa into the digital future. The Seeds for the Future programme, which bridges the gap between academia and the working world, helps in that regard.

“We want to encourage and develop a sense of social responsibility and foster innovation in our young people. We want them to think about how to use technology to solve complex global issues, like climate change for example,” said Fan.

Chinese Ambassador Xiaodong said his country had successfully used  technology to enable an almost fully digital society, giving birth to a new stream of economic growth.

Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaodong.

“The world is witnessing a new generation of digital technology which is bringing about fresh change in society and industry,” he said. 

“During COVID-19 the digital economy had become an important driving force in the global economic recovery. According to the World Bank, the digital economy accounts for 15% of world GDP, while China’s digital sector accounts for 39% of its GDP.

“We firmly support Huawei in showing social responsibility and engaging in win-win cooperation,” he added. “China will continue to cooperate with South Africa in advancing development with the digital economy at the core.”  

The participants are drawn from universities including in previously disadvantaged areas. It also favours black, female candidates and aims for a minimum 50-50 gender split. 

Vhuthuhawe Munyai.

Vhuthuhawe Munyai, Computer Science student from the University of Limpopo, said:  “I am expecting to learn more about the technology in networking, which is 5G, AI and Cloud computing. With the introductory Huawei courses I have attended online, I have already learnt a lot and am still eager to learn and grow more in this field.” 

Munyai, who hails from Makhado, hopes to use the skills from ICT training to develop his hometown.

Between 2016 and 2019, 40 students travelled to China for the annual programme, which was grounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. The course was held online and Huawei was able to expand the number of candidates to 50.

 Including 2021, over 100 students would have benefited from Huawei’s flagship global CSR program.

The eight day course started on 15 November and runs until 22 November. – Zambezi News