As the new reality of remote work is brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cameroonian non-profit organisation Action Lab For Development (ACTLAB) is delivering bespoke and targeted training in computer literacy and administration.
ACTLAB was conceived by Jaime Andre Garcia, a partner of Meanwhile Associates and education facility Tobby Vision Computers. Their mission has been to improve the Cameroonian educational system in technical and vocational ICT training while creating ongoing and sustainable employment opportunities within the technological sector.
Today, more than 29 percent of the world’s youth are not connected to the internet. To be disconnected in a digital world is to be deprived of opportunities to learn, communicate and develop skills for the 21st century. Unless access and skills are available more equally, connectivity only deepens inequity, reinforcing deprivation from one generation to the next.
ACTLAB recently highlighted in their submission to the UN that policies to reduce the digital divide need to be multidimensional: technological, economic, social and educational and should address both socioeconomic and digital inequalities simultaneously.
The multi-faceted model has proven a success at ACTLAB where their programmes aim to create a generation of African digital entrepreneurs. From intensive labs to collaborations with multinational corporations such as Microsoft, MovingWorlds, ACTLAB has delivered training and ongoing support to continue closing the digital divide.
“I believe that making accessible programming solutions to things that people have only ever dreamt of – things that have never been created before. Computational Thinking helps make light work of difficult problems. Facing a problem that has never been solved can be scary, but with these simple tools, anything is possible. Tackling access can support not only the student but those around them” (ACTLAB Representative, Cornelius Tawong) said.
Since ACTLAB’s launch in 2016, the organisation has reached over 794 students and continues to support more than 20 entrepreneurs. Fast forward to 2020 and ACTLAB is looking to develop an online training platform allowing youth to access education when they are unable to physically attend classes.
Training more young people in the community also exposes them to a career path they may not have previously considered or even known about. Computer science skills also prepare the youth for the technological demands of the jobs of the future, regardless of field or occupation. As workplace and job requirements evolve, candidates highly skilled in computer science, programming and coding are increasingly in demand.
ACTLAB believes that educating the next generation in computer-based skills develops their computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies.The organisation works closely with international partners and Cameroonian policy advisors to ensure that these skills are transferred into formal education policy or curriculum revision in the future.
“Every industry needs computer scientists. They are needed in biology, video gaming, schools, health care, public service, and anywhere that innovation is involved. That is why technology being the language of the future, ACTLAB is preparing the youth for this” (ACTLAB Representative, Cornelius Tawong) added.