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City, Microsoft in R200m deal to empower the poor


More than one million young and older people in some of Johannesburg’s disadvantaged areas are to be provided with free basic computer skills training thanks to an unprecedented R200-million partnership between the City of Johannesburg and leading global software company Microsoft.

The ground-breaking partnership was announced by Executive Mayor Cllr Parks Tau at a ceremony attended by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Paul Mashatile and Microsoft South Africa Managing Director Zoaib Hoosen at the Johannesburg City Library on Tuesday July 26.

Described by Mayor Tau as “a digital revolution”, the partnership will be implemented over five years.

Mayor Tau said 800 000 youths aged between 18 and 34 and 200 000 residents aged 35 or older would be provided with free training to equip them with computer skills needed for entry-level jobs. This makes Johannesburg the first African city to roll out a computer skills development programme of this magnitude.

The training will be provided at City libraries and other centres already offering programmes such as the Massive Online Open Varsity (MOOV).

Mayor Tau said the initiative was in response to the job market’s needs for skilled workers.

“The initiative is set to break down a significant barrier to opportunities for disadvantaged residents, particularly as it builds digital literacy and connects with the rest of Vulindl’ eJozi objectives. In South Africa, every office needs people with these skills, and every working age resident can get a head-start with digital literacy.

“In today’s job market, a basic requirement is that people must have computer skills. About 50% of jobs require basic computer skills, so if you don’t have that, you are already excluded,” he said.

He said Microsoft, as the primary provider of basic computer programmes, was a natural partner for the initiative. The new partnership will see youth participants also linked up with other development initiatives under Vulindl’ eJozi, which include entry-level job matching, matric rewriting and vocational skills training as well as entrepreneurial skills development. Already more than 130 000 youths are on the database.

The Mayor urged young people to register for the computer skills programme on the Vulindl’ eJozi mobi site, the nearest public library or walk-in centre from August 2016. Training starts in September. Hoosen said by 2022, more than 77% of entry-level jobs would demand basic computer skills.

He said by joining the digital revolution, the City was following international trends

“This partnership and the impact of what we do here today will enable us to better empower the workforce of the future. A workforce that is diverse, boasting a youth culture that utilises its digital literacy to create a thriving city of entrepreneurs and highly-skilled workers,” Hoosen said.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said that the partnership gave real effect to the National Development Plan and Vision 2030 in that it linked skills development with job market needs. He applauded Mayor Tau and the Mayoral Committee for their bold and visionary leadership.

“This is a good story to tell. This is my Jozi, a smart African and digital City. I will spread the gospel,” he said.

MEC Mashatile also applauded the City for this and other programmes.

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