“When you become fluent with reading and writing, it’s not something that you’re doing just to become a professional writer. Very few people become professional writers. But it’s useful for everybody to learn how to read and write.

Again, the same thing with coding. Most people won’t grow up to become professional computer scientists or programmers, but those skills of thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively, are things that people can use no matter what they’re doing in their work lives.” says Mitch Resnick, creator of Scratch in this TED Talk.

Fluency in language is when someone can move beyond basic comprehension and start expressing their feelings and ideas. Likewise, digital fluency is when someone moves beyond just interacting with new technology but starts creating with it.

This is what we saw in Code4CT. Young girls learnt web building skills and were able to apply those to create their own solutions. Having learnt how to create websites, some of the girls came to me and told me that they had noticed that websites of schools in their area were ‘terrible’ and that they wanted to create better ones. At the NxtGen Coders event they did just this (and went on to win the event)! This is digital fluency.

Four of the Code4CT girls went on to enter Innovate South Africa’s Innovation Challenge with a project called Transport Revolution. During Code4CT Ncebakazi had asked me if she would learn how to create a USSD menu. When I told her we would be focussing on building websites, she said “Oh well, if I learn to make a website, I will be able to work out how to make a USSD menu”. And she did. Here is their story:

Transport Revolution

The Innovators: Ncebakazi Gxako, Yolanda Nkala, Sisanda Tom, Zintle Fulani

The Problem: The majority of people travelling from Khayelitsha and other townships use the train because it is cheap and affordable. But, the trains are not safe, are often delayed, have long ticket queues, and can have a shortage of paper for printing tickets.

The Challenge: People traveling from the townships do not realistically have another option for transportation that is as cheap as the train. But the trains often cause them to the be late for work and sometimes result in people paying for other means of travel (on top of train tickets).

The Insight: If the waiting time in queues is shortened or eliminated, people will not waste as much time and/or miss trains while buying tickets.

The Solution: Transport Revolution has planned a ticket-system where travelers can pre-pay for travel credit using a mobile application, which can also be accessed via the computer for those users who do not have access to smartphones. The credit is loaded onto a card (rather than paper ticket), which is swiped upon travel. This also eliminates the use of paper tickets, which caused problems in the past (shortages of paper) and more importantly is a waste of paper, leading to a great deal of waste.

The Impact: People traveling via the trains will have a much more pleasant experience and waste less time in queues. Transport Revolution’s system aims to transform the whole train system in Cape Town.

You can also read a recent article by Design Indaba “Why girls should code” on Code4CT and its impact.

Please consider supporting the Code4CT Thundafund campaign – with a little bit of support from you and me, young girls can achieve mighty things in our country.