Bringing Tech and Digital Literacy to Disadvantaged Schools
Founder and Managing Director at MiDO Technologies, Dale Simons, is changing lives through technology and ensuring that the youth is prepared for the digital future.
For the past eight years, Dale Simons has been on a mission to prepare learners and teachers at disadvantaged schools across South Africa with digital skills for the future. This he does through the MiDO Foundation, the non-profit arm of MiDO Technologies (pronounced me-doh), the Jamestown-based company he founded after spending more than 15 years in senior roles in the fields of information and communication technology, and systems implementation, support and training for large corporate companies. At MiDO, Dale creates digital hubs in underprivileged schools with the aim of changing lives. At these hubs, young people are connecting with opportunities to gain digital skills and learn about technology in a fun and exciting way.
“The MiDO Foundation is all about empowering disadvantaged youth for the future by giving them access to the technical knowledge and tools they need to work in an increasingly digital world,” says Dale. The company does this by converting unused rooms in schools into digital technology hubs for learners. Currently, Dale and his team are working with 30 schools in Stellenbosch, seven in Franschhoek, and a further 15 schools in Helderberg.
“We strive to make each hub a comprehensive place for innovation, where children and teens can connect and engage with the latest tech and develop the skills they need to thrive under the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here, learners can access Wi-Fi, use tablets, and are introduced to concepts like coding, robotics, audio engineering, and photography.”
By giving young people from poorer backgrounds access to the latest technology, Dale hopes that they will become digitally literate and develop new interests that may inspire their future career choices.
“This is crucial. The future lies with tech, and those children from disadvantaged backgrounds with no digital skills will either become unemployable or face significant challenges in the future workplace, more so than they do already, which will further worsen South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis.”
Dale was inspired to start the MiDO Foundation after working with teachers from underprivileged schools: “When I went to these institutions, I could see how both the scholars and staff were unable to access the latest innovations in education and how this impacted their right to an equal education.”
For this reason, he launched the technology side of the company, which is tasked with developing educational resources for teachers and learners. These are then passed on to the MiDO Foundation, which ensures that they are implemented in the schools where they are needed most.
However, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown have exacerbated the foundation’s efforts, with Dale and his team being unable to visit schools or continue developing new hubs amid the lockdown and closure of public spaces: “The pandemic is compounding the current crisis in under-resourced schools, with learners now having even less access to resources.”
MiDO is launching QUEST to transform digital learning
For this reason, MiDO is launching QUEST, an online learning platform that will let young people access and engage with all the information and tools they usually would in schools. “To keep them interested and wanting to learn, we have taken an edutainment approach with QUEST by introducing gamification in the virtual classroom to transform digital learning into a fun and enjoyable experience that is able to captivate and stimulate their minds.”
In the future, Dale is hoping to create digital hubs in all disadvantaged schools across the country and to make sure that learners everywhere are given an opportunity to learn and better prepare themselves for the future. “In doing so, we would like to invite everyone to join us and to be part of the solution – we welcome all skill sets and resources, and are keen to work with people and organisations wanting to make a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of the young and disadvantaged.”
Active member in his community
In addition to his work at MiDO, Dale is also an active citizen, being chairman of the Jamestown Ratepayers Association and having previously served on the Stellenbosch 360 Tourism Board as well as various other committees working to further heritage, education and development in the area. In his spare time, Dale can be found at Stellenbosch Golf Club or on the surrounding trails with his mountain bike.