Over the last few years, Esther K. Sianipar, Community Affairs Manager, Microsoft Indonesia, has been pushing for coding to be learnt by children and youth in the country. She tells us why her work is so urgent, and what coding literacy really means.
At 16 per cent Internet penetration rate, Indonesia has among the lowest rate of Internet access in Southeast Asia. Is pushing for children and youth to learn coding putting the cart before the horse?
With an archipelago of 17,000 plus islands and other geographical challenges, Indonesia faces very real obstacles in having a fully-developed infrastructure. In addition, most Indonesians do not have proficiency in the global language for coding, English.
But there are changes that herald hope. For one, affordable smartphones are allowing easier, cheaper, and greater Internet access. Over the next five years, the government will invest hundreds of billions into developing infrastructure.
Teaching coding literacy now prepares the next generation for these changes. At the same time, we are helping to build up an ecosystem that welcomes, nurtures, and promotes technology.
How do you define coding literacy?
A person who has developed such literacy has the ability to engage in logical thinking, computational thinking, and creative thinking, among other things. They are the type to explore problems in depth, analyse what they see, and express concepts through algorithms to create meaningful solutions.
Most of that sounds applicable to many other non-tech fields, like music, social interactions, and writing.
That is exactly why coding campaigners see coding not as an answer, but a journey to mastering key skills needed in the 21st century.
I learnt art in school, not because policymakers and teachers expected to churn out artists, but because it is an essential form of literacy. Same goes for coding—it is an important fluency to achieve.
Someone who possesses such fluency with coding, like I’ve mentioned earlier, can develop important skills such as logical and creative thinking, which are skills that can help Indonesian youth bring their best ideas to fruition. They also have the potential to become technopreneurs—a group of talent we definitely need more of in the country. Indonesia is facing a large gap in our talent pool in terms of technical know-how, and technopreneurs can support various industries that are looking to drive greater innovation through the use of technology.
What courses would you recommend to a coding newbie?
I would say, have fun! You can start off with the easy drag-and-drop tutorials, which would be suitable for lower primary students, and those who hesitate to use the computer or learn coding. My personal favourites are Minecraft Hour of Code and the tutorials by Computer Science Unplugged.