Sept - Dec 2016
Global Digital Innovation
Edu Tech 



This was astounding. Walking into ThoughtWorks, Johannesburg and seeing coaches clean, mop, vacuum and organise desks for the first Rails Girls Johannesburg -was humbling and I was awestruck…


That is the spirit that set the tone for Rails Girls Johannesburg’s first presence in SA.   The organisers, coaches, ThoughtWorks Orville Khangale and volunteer Gary Segal including a 10 year old volunteer, Zaakirah Sader all pitched in to ensure that the Rails Girls got their first best Ruby on Rails coding experience.


The SWAG, a little red gift bag for the participants, which included a Code of Conduct, a Toolkit for Online Safety and a ThoughtWorks mug, were sleek and minimal and every Rail Girl got a T- Shirt – It was a proud moment. Then we improvised – Eskom’s epic load shedding tried to foil us – so we presented without slides on Day 1 to introduce our Rails Girls to the Rails Girls programme.  Amidst identity game and descriptions of themselves the Rails Girls Johannesburg, found their coding spirt and each other.  That in itself should have been enough.

It was not – they were blown away by Vuyisile Sisulu’s wifi spoon presentation and showed us a few tricks. Then Ridhwana Khan took them through the Rails exercise like the pro – she is and they look to it with a lot of enthusiasm. Bentobox and theory and boxes and logic, style, design and infrastructure were demystified with Mariana Bravo – I loved that part and was delighted to act as scribe as these amazing young girls popped answers out with shocking clarity.  I was blown away.


The sessions for coding were intense and labelling the girls into groups – ranging from Ruby  Onxy, Crystal, Tanzanite, Platinum, Pearls,  Jade, Emeralds,  was a hit – these Rails Girls Johannesburg shone like jewels in their sessions. They worked hard, really hard for a long stretch of coding and came up with apps for books and fashion. Girls with brains and style is what I call them. The future coders glowed and regardless of their fatigue – after the marathon coding session. They were so well supported by these incredible coaches Liandra, Senovia, Faris, Bukiwe, Simba and Charles.    Ridhwana, Mariana and Vuyisile were there with them as they coded too! Big up to these incredible community spirited coaches.

We had some moments, too much Pizza, who thought we could ever have had too much pizza! Too little marshmallows – this I will remedy joyfully next time. 

The Rails Girls were invited to come to spend more time at ThoughtWorks by Brain Keke, Head of Technology for Pan Africa when he spent some time talking to them .. that was gracious and a real plug in opportunity for the Rails Girls. The highlight for the coders – they time, effort, and perseverance was honoured by the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr Enver Surty – who acknowledged the digital space for young women – and inspired them to embrace the digital world with full pride. This was indeed a coding moment for these first ever Rails Girls of Johannesburg and an emerging digital space for young women.   They received their Certificates of Participation from the Deputy Minister of Basic Education and shone more brightly than the jewels they proved themselves to be.   Theirs was a glow of pride, recognition and accomplishment.   All sparks and curiosity.

Thank you, Rails Girls Johannesburg! Thank you all for the community.  Thank you for the amazing sparks and curiosity.

 It ‘s success has ensured that the Finnish inspired community spirited  Rails Girls movement is set to roll out nationally in 2015 in the major cities of South Africa.


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Creator Spaces   Designing Innovation Economics


Ayesha Dawood

I liked this when I came across it “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking" says Jessie Shefrin former Provost of The Rhode Island School of Design and past Dean of Graduate Studies of The Rhode Island School of Design.

I like this too, alot 'design thinking ... is the expression of communication – the form itself...' that is the response I got when I asked John Maeda, at a talk at MIT this year what design thinking is -- Is it the form, is it the way it is presented .. and how does it impact international affairs? His response has got me mulling on innovation economics – and a very 21st century focus. The innovation economics idea was introduced to me by Professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property. And so Professor Fisher I take the liberty to propel this idea to designing innovation economics in the 21st century. So here I am positing Creator Spaces as innovation economics in action. And yes, Prof Fisher, Intellectual Property is important and as you say, only and only if it creatively engages with culture. So I take the creative engaging with the culture of a people, the culture of counties ... to a culture of creation. So, I am building and creating and designing too. Is this Ronald Dworkin`s chain novel theory playing itself out – a step by step building of things.

In particular I focus on Creator and Maker spaces which I call Creator Spaces. It is a movement rapidly gaining traction – and pioneering new pedagogies – tinkering, creator and playful learning pedagogies. No doubt this is influencing and will continue to improve a whole new wave – tinkering, playful learning and learning through play and exploration heralding novel creations as well as iterations in the new edu- tech era.

This is innovation economics birthed. A world of tinkering, software and hardware creation including an immersive engagement with technology and with materials –that is what empowers us to be courageous and creative. To make, to create – the art of playful learning and innovator spirit is boldly borne.

In seeing what we create – both online with immersive engaging of technology to building with our minds and hands to creating with materials to embracing the realm of possibilities and yes frameworks ( the lawyer in me screams legal frameworks as much computational thinking calls for system frameworks ). That is the power of Creator Space. They energise, motivate, uplift and propel growth in ones own sense of self, in creativity, in making, in building, in designing and cognition and critical thinking. And this is why it makes sense – it is innovation economics in both the digital and physical – a new form of a connected world – a world of immersive technology made simple – a world of creative making and a world of design and designing new things – software, new hardware, new things and while the search for new hardware forms and hardware materials is increasingly opening up new possibilities in materials.... Creator Spaces are about working with what is available as well making new from afresh and in that process new forms are birthed – New software creation is Creator Space and open source learning and remixing also lend impetus to this. See what amazing creations Scratch, an open source computer programme inspiring community learning and inspiring kids to create stories, animations and games - initiated at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group - is doing for kids globally here

Designing Creator Spaces is about inspiring people to take charge of their minds and ideas. I marvelled at watching the excitement and agility of the kids at MIT `s Scratch Day this May. Boundless enthusiasm and fun creations – and such confidence.

A new creator pedagogy in the making – yes – but maybe not so new in Africa and emerging economies where creator crafts and tinkering necessities were birthed. It is this staple that will take the shift to tinkering and artful play in emerging economies to levels unparalleled and a boon for innovation economics. Now that is design thinking innovation economics.  Creator Spaces is innovation economics. And yes, Intellectual Property matters.

Ayesha Dawood is a lawyer, writer and artist and educator. She is a Harvard and South African educated lawyer (@ConsultAyesha) She has an LL.M from Harvard Law School and is a recent Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.