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A young female developer focuses intently on the on-screen data in front of her.

Making the world a better place – one young developer at a time

Aadithyan Rajesh is not your average fourteen-year-old. While many of his peers across Dubai worry about balancing school and extracurricular activities, Aadithyan worries about problems in the world around him. And more importantly he thinks about how he will solve those problems.

Having taken an interest in programming from an early age, Aadithyan understands that young developers have a vital role to play in helping solve many of society’s greatest challenges.

Already the peer-based learning platform that he founded helps thousands of students across the world share knowledge and learn from one another.

Aadithyan’s story is testament to what can be achieved when brilliant young minds across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are provided with world-class support and technology.

It’s exactly why Microsoft facilitates developer communities across the region where talented individuals can explore new products and inspire one another.

Aadithyan says joining Microsoft’s developer communities helped push him in the right direction and enabled him to access proper resources like GitHub.

He is just one of the many talented and inspiring individuals from across the region who, not only draws support from developer communities, but is also passionate about sharing his knowledge with others.

In fact, Microsoft celebrates developers who are making outstanding contributions to their communities through its Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award. The Award recognises technology experts who have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies and love to share their knowledge.

Helping solve society’s greatest challenges

In a world redefined by COVID-19, developers have become even more important to the ability of both business and society to recover and rebuild.

This is exactly the mission on which Microsoft’s MVPs find themselves. The MVP community in MEA is formidable – including individuals like Usama Wahab Khan, who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to help others in his home-city of Dubai. “I had been working in Chicago when the pandemic first hit and by the time I came back to Dubai, everything was shut down. As a developer I wanted to come up with an answer,” he says. The company Usama founded did exactly that – offering free implementation of Microsoft Teams across the UAE.

And it’s not just through the solutions and services that the region’s top developers are making a difference. They also play an important part in nurturing young tech talent across the region.

Gergana Young is an MVP in South Africa. She is passionate about the need to grow more developers within the region. “A few years ago I went to a school event where a group of top students were gathered. When we asked them what they would like to be one day, they said ‘accountants’ or ‘lawyers’. None of them think about software development because they don’t know what it is.”

Gergana Young presenting at the Insider Dev Tour
Gergana Young is a co-organiser of the Java Script meetup in Johannesburg, South Africa

Community support is key

For MVP Samuel Adranyi, who is currently based in Ghana, it was his father who started him on a career in software development. Samuel’s father was a volleyball coach and master tactician of the sport. He was playing at a club championship in Italy, feeling frustrated by the way the contest was taking shape, when he walked up to the open net to start a conversation. It was there that he noticed a screen that looked like a television.

As it turned out, his competitors were inputting his player stats into a system that was analysing his game play, helping them to gain a vital advantage.

Shortly after he returned home, Samuel told his father about his new computer classes at his school. Having experienced firsthand the power of technology tied to a sport he loved, his father realised the importance of Samuel learning about technology. From that moment Samuel had his full support for extra lessons and anything else that was needed to succeed.

But this level of encouragement can be rare. Moaid Hathot is an MVP based in Israel. Ironically, when people first heard he was interested in studying Computer Science, they discouraged him, saying there likely wouldn’t be enough job opportunities available.

Fortunately, things have started to change since he left school and that is in no small part thanks to people like Moaid and the other MVPs who have made it their mission to drive greater awareness around tech-related career opportunities in schools. “I encourage students that even if they don’t have straight A’s they can become developers if they like computers. They just have to believe,” he says.

It simply can’t be underestimated how impactful that community support can be.

Ömer Faruk Çolakoğlu, an MVP based in Turkey, has reached over 150 000 individuals with online courses on Microsoft technologies. Ömer works with Turkcell to create Microsoft-based demos, and workshops and learnings materials. Having participated and succeeded in a competition like the Microsoft Imagine Cup, he knows just how important it is to drive initiatives that encourage skills development and collaboration among young developers.

“Communities are a great way to access new ideas,” says Moaid who points out that technology platforms themselves can also assist in providing this level of collaboration. “Platforms like GitHub will make better developers, because they allow us to collaborate with others to solve problems. We can also access codes from the GitHub library, understand how they work and then apply them to our solutions. We just go ahead and read and learn from others.”

Technology helping to create better developers

Samuel Adranyi, a Ghana-based MVP is passionate about exposing communities across Africa to the possibilities of tech

Rapid adoption of cloud services is also making the world of development a great deal more accessible. Platforms such as Azure are making developers’ lives easier than ever before, especially when it comes to the speed with which they can help companies create new offerings.

“Azure is super agile,” says Usama. “During the pandemic, we were able to get one of our customers up and running with an advanced analytics application that needed to cater for 50 000 users. Using Power BI and Azure to host the application, we were able to build it from scratch in three days – something that would have taken months in the past,” he adds.

But in as much as the determination of people and advancement of technology has enabled significant growth of software development as a career in MEA, there are still major challenges to be overcome. “To take advantage of cloud connectivity, you need internet access, which many people in Africa don’t have,” says Samuel.

This year he is starting a project called ‘Tech on Wheels’ – a mobile computer lab filled with 3D printers, laptops, HoloLens, and so on. The idea is that it will move from community-to-community exposing people to the possibilities of tech.

It’s a cause that requires the region’s full attention – particularly as the world continues to battle new trials brought about by COVID-19.

Aadithyan says he wants to create products that will make people’s lives better and easier. Few groups are better equipped to tackle this monumental task than the developer community. And for Microsoft supporting these incredible individuals, whether it be by providing the right tools or creating opportunities for knowledge-sharing, is key to helping solve some of the region’s greatest challenges.