YouthSpark Update: Startups Create Twice the Value for Economies Like Estonia Than In Other Countries

If you are going to tinker with robotics, mobile app building and anything that a strong developer toolkit could produce, you are going to want to do it in Estonia, according to this TechCrunch report. Young people who get involved with these projects, and then turn to building their own apps and startups produce twice the amount of value for their economy than in other countries. 

Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people, has numbers to back up that programs like this could help its economy. It’s produced stats that indicate that each IT job creates “twice the added value for Estonia compared to the average in other economic spheres.” In other words, it’s not a particularly wealthy country, and these skills contribute a much-needed boost to its GDP.

I wish that teachers did more in school to encourage students to work and study with a mind towards building their own country. I've often wondered if we exist in a weird historical bubble that has convinced those of is in the developed world to think that after school is a ready, able and willing group of companies that is eagerly awaiting laborers for the tasks at hand. I don't believe the world needs that. 

That was then.

This is now. 

Part of the YouthSpark initiative, which will invest $500 million to help 300 million children over three years to become conversant in technology, is set to put technology in the hands of students in a way that massively shift the mindsets they have in pursuing a future.

Microsoft's work here has already lifted many out of poverty, so this next three year initiative could have a dramatic global effect in how children perceive the work they can do to help themselves and help their communities. I may have a bit of a bias here. I do work for Microsoft, but I also generally and genuinely believe that technology  use and creating apps, or building startups, is the single biggest savior we have to help economies around the world. This IS our future. We have to make it, as traditional systems just will not support the problems we don't yet know we have, and the current problems, for which we do not have solutions -- ie pollution, fuel crises, diplomatic impasses, etc.. 

The point is, innovation, and giving any individual continual help to produce new things, creates opportunity for countless others around her or him. Just going to work, or graduating from school to work at a place, just doesn't do much for anyone. There's no growth in something already grown, if you know what I  mean. It must be constant innovation and small scale tinkering that ramps up into massively scaled enterprises or projects. 

Aaron Stannard, who used to work with us at Microsoft, has written a great blog post about what it is like to build and ship real commercial software. When you read through it, you will wonder, like I do, why startup building is not taught more often. Many of the things that go into building a great company, or a great piece of software, depend on the specific skill sets that teachers already teach in the classroom -- focus, details, writing, communication, math, problem-solving, analysis, iterations, testing. Sure, this all exists in a world of work, but nearly every child given technology or the stack to play around on can do this. 

Like Jeff Atwood says, your app is merely a collection of details. There’s really two classes of details that matter:

  • Details that affect how the user engages with your product and
  • Details that affect how the user understands your product.

Marketing engineering, demo apps, copy writing, and graphical design are all investments we made into helping make our product easier to understand.

Documentation, support, and UX are all investments we made into helping make our product easier to use.

The bottom line here is that the auxiliary stuff needed to support your product, like documentation and support infrastructure, take a lot of time to do well. They’re as much a part of your user’s experience as the software is itself.

Software testing and app building can be a  new set of skills that drive people to know each other better. When you work to solve other people's problems, you are really  not very far away to bringing stability, reassurance, help, and human kindness to a society. I think of software as being another communication channel. It's like the friendly neighbor who can lend a listening ear, or who comes over with something you need, in your time of need.

The more people who reach out to others and build, or engineer, solutions for massive problems, the easier it is to build value, not just in economies, but in people's lives. 

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