By Dr. Daiana Beitler, Regional Director Asia, Microsoft Philanthropies
The Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 5-11, is an annual initiative that mobilizes educators, parents, nonprofits and the industry to inspire all young people to learn computer science and open the door to a promising future. With our rising digital economy and the nonstop pace of technological change, we have an imperative to prepare young people to pursue careers that are in demand.
Computer science refers to the academic discipline of studying what can be done using a computer and how to do so. At the foundation of this is computational thinking, a mental process that allows one to formulate problems so as to design possible solutions that a computer or human can easily understand.
Coding is one way that computational thinking can be expressed. It is simply writing a list of step-by-step instructions for computers to perform what we want to do. More importantly, it provides everyone a platform to unleash our creativity to create software websites, games, and apps.
More than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and this will increase to 77 percent in the next decade, according to IDC. With youth unemployment in Southeast Asia alone almost three times that of total unemployment rate, coding and computer science serve as the gateway for youth to secure a more fulfilling career or even venture into entrepreneurship. In the Philippines for instance, an entry-level tech position pays 38 percent more than the minimum wage.
I strongly encourage everyone to try coding—and here’s why:
- Digital capabilities and economic growth go together
According to a recent study by Accenture, more than a fifth (22%) of global GDP today can be attributed to some form of digital skills, capital, goods or services. Digital tech could power $2 trillion of the global economic output by 2020, clearly demonstrating its role in igniting overall economic growth. For this reason, there are plans to formally introduce computing and computer science education into national curricula in several Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
- Coding is a skill that is increasingly being demanded by the labor market
Technological advancements like artificial intelligence have ignited much debate, partially due to their potential to replace humans at their jobs. According to World Economic Forum research, over five million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a result of technological change. Less reported, however, is that technology can generate jobs and ignite overall economic growth by creating a spillover effect in other industries. For example, in New Zealand, each new job in the high-tech industry creates five additional jobs in other sectors.
The jobs of the future will come with new demands—coding along with STEM education are part of the reskilling and upskilling required to stay relevant.
- Coding also drives innovation and entrepreneurship
Though it feels like there’s an app for everything these days, the world is always waiting for The Next Big Thing. The app economy is expected to double in size to $101 billion by 2020, so if you have a great idea, knowing how to code will help a great deal in getting your product to market. Who knows, your brainchild may redefine traditional industries, like what Uber and Airbnb have done to transportation and tourism, respectively!
Based on latest data from Bloomberg, the world’s top five companies by stock market cap are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook—a reflection of how the growth baton has been passed to technology from traditional industries such as oil and gas, banks and automotive.
- Coding is the new second language
Just like how picking up a new language opens doors to foreign cultures, learning to code can unlock possibilities to create new things. For instance, at least four states in the US are looking to count coding to fulfil a foreign-language requirement in high school. This reflects the thinking that in today’s competitive job market, computer skills are just as critical as speaking another language.
There are thousands of programming languages, some more popular than others. While some of the better-known programming languages are written in the Latin alphabet, there are others where you code in the national languages of Asian countries, such as Indonesian (BAIK), Korean (Changjo), Japanese (Dolittle), Mandarin (PerlYuYan), and even Hindi—there are over 20 Asian programming languages!
- Coding complements and reinforces other important fundamental skills, such as problem-solving and teamwork
Coding benefits more than those who want to pursue it professionally. In the learning process, you can build some important fundamentals, such as how to simplify complex systems. It is an extension to critical and creative thinking, contributes to problem-solving capabilities, develops logic, and accelerates the power and potential of individuals to innovate and tap into the digital economy of the future.
If you want to learn more about this, you can now also watch Code Trip, a documentary created by Microsoft in partnership with Roadtrip Nation, that follows three computer science students as they meet with coders, researchers, and robotics engineers, finding inspiration and guidance from people who have defied stereotypes to build meaningful careers in tech. As the road trippers discover the wide range of careers in computer science—and the diverse people working in them—they realize that they don’t have to fit a mould to make it in tech; anyone has the potential to be a driver of innovation and discovery.
So if you are totally inspired to start learning how to code, here are five (free) resources to kick-start your journey.
- Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorial introduces players to basic coding within the fun and popular “Minecraft” environment. Use “blocks” of code to take your character on an adventure through this Minecraft world.
- Touch Develop is an interactive development environment and a visual programming language used to develop application programs for mobile devices, including smartphones and tablet computers.
- Kodu Game Lab allows users to create games on the PC and Xbox via a simple visual programming language. Kodu can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Anyone can use Kodu to make a game—young children as well as adults with no design or programming skills.
- CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around. CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from primary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over 20 years, in classrooms, science centers, homes, and even for holiday events in a park!
- Small Basic is a project that is focused at making programming accessible and easy for beginners. With a friendly development environment that is very easy to master, it eases both kids and adults into the world of programming.
Join us at the Hour of Code during the Computer Science Education week to take your first step into the world of coding. Start your journey now!