African-Americans Are Being Encouraged to Pursue Technology Careers

Nancy Mwirotsi (Photo11: Special to the Register)
Nancy Mwirotsi
(Photo11: Special to the Register)

In Nancy Mwirotsi’s native Kenya, technology created by a Kenyan allows anybody to move money from one account to another using his mobile phone. It illustrates to Mwirotsi what is possible if more African children learn how to write computer code at an early age.

Her new Des Moines-based program, Pi 515, looks to help refugees and other minorities do just that.

“It is not only teaching them to program,” she said. “It is teaching them to solve problems and become critical thinkers. These kids know math, English, science. But when you look at the future, everything is running on technology. If they don’t learn it, they will be stuck.”

Pi 515, which started April 1 with roughly 20 students, is one of several programs across the country that seeks to provide minorities with mentorship and programming skills as a way to help families out of poverty.

For businesses, such programs mean a potential solution to one of technology’s biggest problems: not enough workers in the talent pipeline.

Laura Weidman Powers co-founded CODE2040 in San Francisco about two years ago to teach minorities about programming and technology startups. The organization teaches minority students the skills needed to become technology ambassadors in their communities.

Businesses should embrace the push because it’s a way to cure those pipeline woes, she said.

“This isn’t about charity,” Powers told The Des Moines Register at the Big Omaha conference last week. “It is rare to have something with so much potential for impact to be so closely aligned with business interests.”

CODE2040 is an eight-week summer program that matches the students with mentors. Two of the five students who went through the program last year have already started their own technology start­ups, Powers said.

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Source: Des Moines Register | Marco Santana, The Register

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