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PyCon Zimbabwe Day 2 – Artificial intelligence, programming in Universities and organizing coding events for kids

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PyCon Zimbabwe 2017

Yesterday, PyCon held their first day which featured a workshop called Django Girls. Django Girls workshop was quite the experience to attend and see girls coding together. Today, we attended the second day of PyCon being held at ZESA National Training Center in Harare. We arrived towards the late afternoon and upon arrival, a talk from Achim Munene was just starting.

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Achim’s talk was on Artificial intelligence. It was a brief talk that touched on what AI is, the uses of artificial intelligence and the different ways to implement artificial intelligence in different programming languages. He spoke about how AI can be done in a variety of programming languages like JAVA, however, it is easier to do it in Python as the language has a wide range of resources for the field.

Apart from resources, Python has one of the fastest growing communities locally so it would be a good programming language to start with as you will have support. Achim then further shared some of the concepts that you might want to get familiar with before starting to make a major AI. Such stuff included mathematics, neural science, and machine learning.

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One interesting thing that he mentioned was a person would need to understand people and have ethics. So when making AI, for it to be considered good especially if it will interact with people, the maker has to understand people in order to make a machine behave like one. The other important thing is to have ethics.

As we have seen from debates going on between high profile individuals from tech industry like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, AI can quickly get out of hand if it is let to be. This heated topic sparked a short discussion during the conference but that was something that would be left for another conference. However, having good ethics is key to making sure how to at least do your best to control your AI since you’ll know what lines not to cross.

Python is getting big at Universities not just at PyCon

Achim then finished his talk and gave the stage to Tendai Marengereke, a lecturer at Harare Institute of Technology. Tendai was sharing some of the insights that he has come across when dealing with the adoption of programming languages like Python in Universities. From the survey carried out by Techzim 2 months ago, he outlined that Python was one of the top programming languages being used by developers in Zimbabwe. Even though it wasn’t number one. Tendai carried out his own research to dig deeper into the subject.

He reached out to some universities to see which programming languages they were using and what exactly they were using them for. From the ones that did respond, he found that some are using the language for an Introduction to programming course while others are taking it further by implementing it in AI as Achim outlined earlier.

Despite this, some universities haven’t added the programming language to their curriculum. He pointed out that there are a lot of steps that have to be taken before a programming language like Python is added to the curriculum because the chain of command is large and sometimes things just go back and forth.

However, Tendai shared that Python is seeing fast adoption among university students from HIT as a respectable number of them have used it for their projects this year. At the end of his talk, Tendai set the tone for Jessica Upani from Namibia who later gave a talk on organizing conferences for learners and how she has helped make them successes in her home country.

Coding events for kids can be done well and inspire them

Jessica shared her experience of attending a conference and how it got her started on the path to building one for her community. She organized 2 conferences for learners and did one for adults. From those, she discovered that each type of conference has its requirements in respect to design, expectations, activities and the reason for attendance.

She mainly focused on how to organize a successful conference for kids around 10 years of age by making sure that the actual conference doesn’t just have talk after talk after talk. Kids will need a break here and there to keep them engaged and learning. Apart from that, she also shared that such type of conferences are important for the younger generation as they give them a chance to explore what is possible in the tech industry at a young age and then keep nurturing the talent if it is there or start a new adventure if it is not.

The many insights in an afternoon

Those were not the only speakers that presented in the afternoon that we attended. Others were Jose Machava from Mozambique who presented on more technical subjects like deploying your Django apps to an online platform called Heroku and Kundai Gwatidzo who presented on what is GIT and a brief tutorial on how to use it without all the frustration that many have seen.

For the short time that we were there, a lot was shared by the various speakers and I’m told that earlier there were more insights shared. PyCon seems to be less about holding a big lavish conference but more about getting people from different walks of life and continents for that matter into one room. In this room, knowledge from experiences of these developers is shared and that is how collaborations start, just by sharing knowledge.

If you couldn’t attend this year’s edition of PyCon, try to attend the next one because you could learn a thing or two. Anyways, if you have anything you’d like to share about any of the stuff that was shared by these speakers, don’t hesitate to do so in the comments section down below. We would love to hear your thoughts.


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