Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
The world of work is rapidly changing and business and academia must respond quickly or they will find themselves left behind.
In response to the development, last week 10 Zimbabwean information communication technologies (ICT) students left for China under an incubation programme of global technology giant Huawei Technologies called Seeds for the Future.
Designed to bridge the gap between information and communications technology instruction at universities and the practical knowledge and skills needed in the workplace, the programme combines hands-on training and the opportunity to learn from veterans in the field.
The Seeds for the Future programme is sponsored by global information and communications technology leader Huawei.
Students will spend two weeks in China, gaining first-hand knowledge and technical training at Huawei’s global headquarters and receiving an introduction to Chinese language and culture.
By also providing an introduction to Chinese language and culture, the programme prepares participants for careers in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace.
ICTs have become commonplace entities in all aspects of life.
Across the past 20 years the use of ICT has fundamentally changed the practices and procedures of nearly all forms of endeavour within business and governance.
Within education, ICT has begun to have a presence but the impact has not been as extensive as in other fields.
Zimbabwe is in the midst of a significant transformation regarding the country’s products and services thanks to Seed for the Future initiative by Huawei Technologies.
This augurs well with the current transition that is being called Industry 4.0 which represents the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing, characterised by the use of cyber-physical systems.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution era requires educational innovation that redefines career readiness and better prepares graduates for an uncertain, but high-tech future.
Zimbabwe’s education system, from infant to higher education institutions, therefore has to prepare students for jobs or careers that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that the country doesn’t yet know will arise.
In his send-off speech, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Prof Amon Murwira said Government, through his ministry, is preparing for the future by putting in place the necessary policies in higher education and by developing partnerships with business, labour and other social partners.
“We have developed Education 5.0 that responds to the needs of Industry 4.0 by emphasising innovation and industrialisation in addition to the traditional teaching, research and outreach components in higher education,” he said.
“The Seeds for the Future programme is aimed at popularising communications technologies and knowledge, developing ICT professionals, and increasing education opportunities to support Zimbabwe’s digital transformation.
“It provides a vital link between classroom learning and the type of real world situations students will face once they enter the workforce. It also aims to challenge and inspire students who are considering a future in technology, and to provide an experiential experience of life at one of the world’s leading technology companies.
“The programme is an ongoing partnership started in 2015 between the MHTESTD and Huawei, and is the implementation of a cooperation agreement which is aimed at capacity building, joint innovation and skills development, with the support of both the Chinese and Zimbabwean governments. It is a strategy that my ministry strongly believes will go a long way in aid of Education 5.0.”
For Zimbabwe, this is a step in the right direction as the country utilises all opportunities presented by private sector partners such as Huawei through its flagship corporate responsibility initiative, Seeds for the Future.
In recent years, ICT has had a colossal impact and brought many changes to people’s lives and there is currently no indication that further changes to come in the future will be any slower or less disruptive.
ICT permeates just about all areas of everyday life, be it work, leisure time or people’s interaction with the world.
Having started out as a niche discipline, ICT has become a fundamental and integral part of people’s daily routines and is now essential in linking the most diverse fields of science and business.
This leads to the emergence of new application areas and disciplines at the relevant interfaces, such as links between products or energy supply and informatics (Industry 4.0, smart grids), demographic challenges and informatics (AAL), automotive engineering and informatics (autonomous driving) or medicine, biology and informatics (bioinformatics) to name but a few.
Indeed, it is the increasing links between information (usually in the form of data) and communication in particular that are creating new challenges, opportunities and areas of application.
Zimbabwe should not be caught unawares, but should shape future generations to be masters in ICT.
This will help the country to solve future problems using local expertise.
In line with this, Government has released $700 000 for the setting up of innovation hubs at State universities.
To date, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), the Midlands State University (MSU), the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Zimbabwe Defence University and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) have benefited from the Government initiative.
Completion of the infrastructure for the hubs is at the tertiary institutions is at different stages.
HIT recently announced that it has started manufacturing electricity transformers which would be sold to power utility ZESA Holdings.
This means that instead of spending the scarce foreign currency resources available to import transformers, ZESA simply places an order with HIT and the product is delivered.
In the process, ZESA will save the country millions in foreign currency, which will be channelled towards the expansion of power generation as well as other areas of pressing need such as medical drugs.
The country’s agricultural sector can also benefit from Education 5.0 which if maximised will go a long way in securing food security.
Due to climate change and unpredictable weather patterns, farmers in both communal and resettlement areas are struggling to come up with significant harvests from their farming operations.
If students are also taught the manufacture of easy-to-use farming implements which are affordable to most farmers it will also go a long way in improving agricultural production.
In order for farmers to get better yields in a good or bad season, they need good and water-saving irrigation systems.
Local graduates from both universities and polytechnic colleges have a task to design simple irrigation systems which can be efficiently and effectively used by all farmers.
Additionally, the country is currently experiencing blackouts and it requires innovative graduates to come up with a local model of solar panels that can be used to power homes, irrigation systems and industries among others.
Such an invention would see ZESA making significant savings in terms of foreign currency.
While all the other sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy experiences a period of extreme difficulty, the ICT sector presents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth.
Without a doubt, ICT is a critical foundation for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.