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Geekulcha VacWork encourages innovation in the Kalahari

Geekulcha VacWork, a grassroots programme teaching high school pupils about ICT and startups, took place between 10 and 14 Juy in Mier, in the Northern Cape.

Geekulcha co-founder and COO Tiyani Nghonyama told Ventureburn that the initiative, which was launched in 2014, aims to provide a platform for skills redistribution by university students to high school pupils.

“There was a realisation that we need to monitor the transition from being a learner to university student to the job market,” he said.

Nghonyama said one of their main goals was to empower and elevate young female talent. 85% of the attendees at the Geekulcha VacWork Kalahari programme were young women.

“Seeing more females gave us a bit of hope, girls showing courage and interest in being active leaders in the ICT space,” he said.

85%  of attendees at Geekulcha VacWork Kalahari were young women

He said it was important to close the gender gaps in ICT as women were wary of venturing into science and technology.

“We need to break the barrier and encourage more women to be involved technological programmes and more importantly as producers of tech solutions.”

Nghonyama says the VacWork programme has taken 641 scholars and trained them in ICT and business. Since its launch, events have been held in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and have recently been kick-started in Limpopo.

A typical VacWork event sees participants work in tech startup teams to build tech solutions based around a particular theme. The projects are presented in a business model canvas on the final day of the programme.

Solutions are built around mobile apps, websites, graphic designs and electronic systems. These projects are then judged on innovation, market potential, scalability and presentation.

Activities at the Mier event were conducted by DCVH, a business development social enterprise which mentored on entrepreneurship and Geekulcha Student Society which mentored on mobile apps and web development.

A member from the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism also advised participants.

Projects presented at the event

Ten projects, including applications related to social services, events, tourism and sport were developed and presented at the event. One of the projects was a smart skateboard that addresses safety issues around skating.

Nghonyama thinks Geekulcha has also made a significant impact in helping township startups.

“We help them formulate and solidify their ideas. Most importantly, we help them realise how they can reach the markets and the figures you need to do so. We also help them connect with the industry and capitalise on their clientele and users,” he said.

One of the startups to come out of Geekulcha, Megadose, an online marketing and mobile commerce platform, was one of the finalists in the South African Breweries Kickstart Ignite 2016 programme.

Nghonyama told Ventureburn that the Megadose Entertainment application was developed through similar Geekulcha initiaitves GKHack14 and RHok Pretoria.

Geekulcha was awarded an ICT Achievers Award in 2016 for their role in local industrialisation of the ICT ecosystem.

Feature image: Geekulcha via Flickr (With permission)