The City of Joburg has launched an ambitious program through which it plans to put some 1 000 young people from the city through internship programs with digital companies in the hope of raising IT skills across the area. The Johannesburg Educating Digital Interns (JEDI) initiative was launched by mayor Parks Tau last month.

The first 250 interns were selected from 600 applicants, and will begin programs in network engineering, web design and fibre optic engineering with companies like IBM, FibreCo, Microsoft and Cisco. The 10 month internships are split into two parts: the first part involves a four month “boot camp”, which focusses on general training and business skills, while the final six months are on-the-job apprenticeship-style affairs.

250 more people will be added to JEDI program every quarter for the next year, and the city will be using social media channels as recruitment tools, encouraging prospective learners to demonstrate why they should be chosen over Facebook and Twitter.

Rudy Mathang, MMC for economic development, says that the large-scale program is needed to keep Johannesburg competitive over the next few years.

“The World Bank recently that ICT activity is twice as intensive in Johannesburg as in the rest of the country combined,” Mathang said, “We have a young population, and a perfect environment for developing cutting edge ICT products and services.”

Mathang says the initiative is part of the wider “smart city” program to upgrade infrastructure and skills across the region, announced last year.