Coding Skills in Uganda

A group of students in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda attended the Lokopio Hills Vocational Training Institute (VTI). Empowering them to use a computer and to learn coding skills in this report by the European Commission. 

Computer skills for refugees is a project by the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP). A Support Programme to the Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Northern Uganda (SPRS-NU). Their main themes for this Digitalization for Development project aim to create greater economic and employment opportunities for people.

What is coding?

A code is used by people to develop apps, websites and software. Computers don’t understand words, particular languages have been developed to navigate this. The languages use a binary code while an infinite number of combinations exist. Using these languages allows us to translate our ideas and commands into a binary code.

Learning how to code, empowers people to do lots of things on computers. Developing skills in coding is seen as preparing people for jobs. Projects that facilitate refugees to learn these skills in resettlements are seen as preparing people for the growth of STEM industries across Africa.

Essential skills in the global workforce

In Europe the ‘app economy has generated 1.36 million jobs’. Coding has become an essential skill for today’s workforce. Companies like Apple have created their Everyone Can Code program in colleges in Europe, Australia and the US.

The CoderDojo foundation is a charity, that supports CoderDojo a global network of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people. Empowering people with coding skills can help them to hone their ‘math and language skills, builds problem-solving, analytical thinking and logical reasoning abilities’.

Women in Technology Uganda (WITU) in partnership with Theirworld Code Clubs provide a ‘space for vulnerable girls from low-income areas to develop essential skills through computer classes’. One of these projects running in Kampala, Uganda sees students progress to being able to ‘build a computer from scratch, connect it to a monitor and begin programming to create a simple game’ in less than half an hour.

The ACW initiative empowers young refugees with skills. ACW in Uganda is part of ‘35 African countries that are hosting over 1,500 coding workshops involving 500,000 children and youth across the continent’. The Lokopio Hills Vocational Training Institute (VTI) students in Bidi-Bidi refugee settlement are learning to code with the ‘support from the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF)’.

Bidi Bidi refugee settlement

The BidiBidi Refugee Settlement is a refugee camp in northwestern Uganda. It had been a small village, which has now been transformed into one of the ‘world’s largest refugee settlements with over 272,000inhabitants.’ Uganda provides refugees with freedom of movement, ‘the right to work and establish businesses, the right to documentation, access to social services, and allocation of plots of land for shelter and agricultural production

Designed with 30 x 30 metres household plots, designated for agricultural use. This particular style of settlement hopes to encourage ‘innovative self-reliance, resilience and socio-economic integration opportunities for refugees and host communities that are otherwise not feasible in a camp setting.’

Based in the Yumbe district where 74% of the local population had engaged in subsistence farming prior to 2002. Farmers at that time grew ‘maize, cassava, beans, groundnuts and simsim’, cash crops of tobacco and cotton were also grown.

The European Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF)  aims to achieve stability by addressing the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. Economic development programmes that address gaps in skills are important for future employment options for refugees. 

Read more on Digitalization for Development: computer skills for refugees

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