Durban startup Hyperion Development has become the first South African organisation selected by Google to champion a national initiative to revolutionise the fields of Computer Science and software development in the country. Hyperion has raised a total of R1.3 million through awards from Google & the Python Software Foundation (PSF) and partnered with a number of international and local organisations, including the British Computing Society and South African Department of Education. In 2016, Hyperion will lead a range of projects to support the realignment of computing-related fields in SA to match international standards and to accelerate the training & development of a new generation of programmers in Africa.

 

The project is the result of several months of discussions between Hyperion and Google in Zurich, London, and California

 

The South African context

A myriad of challenges hinder the growth of software development as a field in South Africa - a country where programming and Computer Science are still often labelled as ‘IT’. High dropout rates at schools and universities across the country have contributed to the decline in programming & Computer Science knowledge at a national level. The skills gap continues to impact industry as employers struggle to fill software development roles and align their technologies to international industry standards.  

I have much support for such an initiative as there are many issues that IT teachers here in KZN are struggling with, having such a platform presents a great opportunity for us to put our heads together and start working towards resolving them in a structured manner.

-Vani Pather, Subject Advisor, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education

 

Hyperion’s prior training for the South African Department of Education has led to national support for further collaborations

 

New projects

Hyperion, founded in 2012, already addresses many of these issues through the Hyperion Portal - an online course platform for software developers. The Portal has grown to the largest online course platform for programmers in the region. A diverse group of several thousand individuals from 6 Southern African countries have advanced their careers through a range of programming courses that can be taken with limited internet connectivity and bandwidth.

 

The PSF's mission is to build an engaged global community of Python programmers, and Hyperion's success in that regard has been remarkable. We're excited to support this new initiative and look forward to seeing the ongoing development of more Python programmers in Africa.

-Nick Coghlan, Director of the Python Software Foundation & core developer of the Python programming language

 

Hyperion’s partnership with Google & the PSF will enable the launch of a new type of online Computer Science qualification - the microdegree - to enable the scalable training of thousands of new software developers. Hyperion is also working on a new service to accelerate these developers’ entry into the job market through strategic partnerships with large tech firms such as Amazon and Google itself. This ecosystem will be supported by the Hyperion Hub - a service launched in November that has already grown to one of SA’s largest online resources for software developers.

 

An international perspective

Hyperion’s UK team - based in Cambridge, England - has established a strong relationship with Computing at School (a project of the British Computer Society), to adapt their peer-to-peer based education model for programming education in UK schools to the South African context. Hyperion will work closely with Computing at School and the South African government to establishment the country's first national professional body of Computer Scientists - endorsed and supported at an international level. Membership will be open to all stakeholders in programming education -  school and university educators, educational institutions, technology companies, and NGOs - to engage all parties in an ecosystem that will work to achieve higher quality Computer Science education in the country through the development of learning hubs, new curricula, & teacher training.

 

Hyperion’s Cambridge team - closely connected with the University of Cambridge - supports the project from abroad.

 

The Python Software Foundation has extended its endorsement and support of Hyperion for a 4th year and matched Google’s funding award for 2016. Hyperion’s relationship with the PSF - since 2012 - has allowed Hyperion to grow into the largest trainer of the Python programming language in Africa.

A team of 10 Hyperion employees, led by Riaz Moola, Philani Biyela, and Umar Randeree, will work from offices in Durban and Cambridge to implement the above projects throughout 2016.  Hyperion’s strong international links - its team includes several Cambridge, Oxford & Edinburgh graduates and a former Google employee - form exciting prospects for accelerating the evolution of the field of software development in South Africa to match the highest international standards.

Interested in getting involved? Leave a comment below or get in touch with the Hyperion team at contact@hyperiondev.com. 

 

 


About the Author

Riaz Moola previously worked at Google as a part of the core search team, and was the first South African accepted into Google's prestigious Associate Product Manager Programme. He now serves as Director of Hyperion. Riaz read for his masters degree in Advanced Computer Science as a Gates Cambridge scholar at the University of Cambridge, and also holds a honors degree in Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh.

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