Is 23 year Riaz Moola South Africa's Steve Jobs?

13 March 2016 - 02:00 By BONGANI MTHETHWA


As a teenager he helped his high school IT teachers learn the sophisticated programming language behind file-sharing service Dropbox. Such was his level of skill, that some called him South Africa's very own Steve Jobs.Now his tech start-up, Hyperion Development, has become the largest trainer of that language, called Python, in South Africa - and he also helps the Python Software Foundation in the US and UK to manage its African community of coders.He is Riaz Moola. He is just 23.Using the community principle behind online game World of Warcraft, Moola helped to improve the country's IT standards by devising an online course in programming skills for students.Last year, Hyperion was selected by Google as its local partner to run a year-long project to establish the Computer Science Association of South Africa, the first professional body of its kind.Moola, a Gates Cambridge scholar, said they had recently reached R1.3-million in fundraising for the project.story_article_left1"We have very close ties with the Google Africa team and are working to help Google run recruiting events in South Africa and deliver their training," said the former Google employee.Through funding from Oracle, Hyperion has trained IT teachers in programming in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. In 2014, it was also approached by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to train 80 of its staff."Hyperion started when I created an online course platform, driven by university students acting as tutors, where people could take free courses in programming without good internet access," said Moola.The platform is now used by more than 8500 students at Southern African universities.Of the World of Warcraft concept, he said: "It's more the concept of an online community in this game that can be translated to other situations in the real world."Groups of up to 40 players from around the world co-ordinate in very intricate ways to work together as a team. The online community building and delivering our own courses do this in a similar way," Moola said.An estimated 12million people worldwide play the game.Hyperion was started after he saw his computer science class learning programming at the University of KwaZulu-Natal shrink from 1000 in the first semester to fewer than 200 in the second."I realised we have the infrastructure to support high-quality research and education, but lack the open education platforms to provide this education. No one had thought about creating an online course platform for the developing world," Moola said.Apart from teaching valuable skills, Hyperion also links students to companies looking to employ people with those skills.In a post on Hyperion's website Nangamso Tshwete wrote: "The course helped a lot with my studies. Sometimes a lecturer may go too fast and you can get lost. It was great knowing I had extra help available."

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