Thursday, October 29, 2020

4IR Programme upgrades female-owned tech businesses


Every year Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct presents Ya Basadi in 4IR programme, supported by J.P. Morgan. Ya Basadi, means ‘for women’ in Setswana, is an acceleration programme designed for female-owned businesses, which are already trading and have a clear understanding of how tech can scale their businesses.

The programme will also include underserved female entrepreneurs from low-income backgrounds. Khwezi Fudu Cenenda, Enterprise Development Manager at Tshimologong said the Ya Basadi programme taking place this month is well-timed as the country dedicates the month of August to saluting women.

“Entrepreneurship is fast becoming a chosen way to counteract low economic growth and increasing unemployment. This is particularly prevalent when looking at the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) research, which notes that 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Unfortunately, these businesses often require funding as well as support in terms of digital transformation,” said Cenenda.

The programme was developed with three main components: technology training, experiential learning through immersions in industry and the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). These components enable participants to understand how to apply and adopt new technology into their business such as, amongst others, Machine Learning (ML), data analytics, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT), that can lead to growth with smarter data analysis, rapid prototyping and understanding of adaptive manufacturing principles.

The ultimate goal of the programme is to help women-owned businesses scale, generate more value and create employment in Johannesburg economies. The one-year programme is made up of technology masterclasses in 11 areas of technology such as App and Web Development, 3D Printing, AI, Robotics, IoT, VR and Cybersecurity.“No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity,” said Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

The entrepreneurs will be getting practical experience in the industry; learning circles for the cohort to share experiences and will conclude with at least an MVP being developed for or by each start-up. Inconclusive of the programme, the entrepreneurs will also be challenged to develop or build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that will be presented at the end of the programme.

“The programme will also focus on 4IR because of the opportunities that it presents for women’s businesses and how this evolution could assist them to flourish beyond micro and small business status: “Only 13% of women graduate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) while only 23% hold IT jobs. This means that the potential for women to participate in 4IR is limited. Our objective with the programme is to innovate and collaborate to find new ways of increasing access for women in technology,” added Cenenda.

Kevin Latter, Senior Country Officer for J.P. Morgan said: “We are excited to support this innovative programme at a time in our country where small business growth is crucial. As a firm, J.P. Morgan globally focuses on supporting small business and the empowerment of women. This programme, therefore, fits perfectly with our global ethos. The devastating impact of Covid-19 in South Africa has made it even more important for the business sector to support the development of smaller businesses and job creation.”

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