The new frenzy around town is that now coding is as (and sometimes more) important than the 3Rs — Reading, Writing & Arithmetic. As such new online coding schools such as Codeacademy, Code.org, Codenow, Codeschool, Treehouse and hundred others sprung up to help you with your first lesson in basic HTML and later turn you into a full code Ninja completely able to develop an App should you want to.
In fact, even one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs Strive Masiyiwa the chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless Group listed on his popular Facebook page ” HTML and basic coding” as one of the skills one should have, NOW even for those that studied political science, law or medicine!
Technology is increasingly becoming not just another a side note in our lives, but it’s become part of our lives — our work, at home and at play. Mobile computing is especially sky rocketing in Africa where the influx of mobile devices has infiltrated even the most remote areas of the country side. This of course begs for skills beyond merely clicking buttons, filling in forms and swiping away touch screens to having basic understand of what lies beneath the surface and sometimes creating the technology to solve problems.
The rise of the “Citizen Developer”
The idea that anyone is well capable of writing code — even without a background in computer science. The “Citizen Developer”, a phrase coined by technology research firm Gartner, is “an end user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.”. In other words, non-conventionally trained programmer (in most cases self-taught) who uses the same skills as the formally trained pros.
Athletes, journalists, doctors, accountants could now develop Apps as they envision the problem they wish to solve instead of hiring a trained software developer in which case, the idea may be lost in-between explaining to the professional what to exactly do. This could particular be more realistic to achieve thanks to hundreds of coding schools online for as low as $25 for anyone with a computer and an internet connection.
Nurturing the Next Zuckerbergs
A number of learn-to-code programmes aimed at empowering non-technical people, including kids, are also springing up in Kampala. Innovation hubs such as Outbox and WITU Hub are offering holiday programmes for kids to learn coding, a skill that’s yet to be added in the primary and secondary school national curriculum.
Richard Zulu program coordinator at Outbox Hub said in a discussion thread on the subject on i-Network emailing list “most important to note is that skills that a child acquires at such a young age are around problem-solving, critical thinking and how to use maths, science in real life application.”. Outbox offers “Kids Computer Programming” to kids aged 7-11 years for 2 hours per weekend at only $100 per child.
WITU also has a similar program. Barbara Birungi, founder of WITU adds that ” Women in Technology Uganda, an initiative of Hive Colab in a bid to encourage more girls into STEM, recently opened up a Hub to train young women. We have different programs for different categories; CODE GIRLS program that is already in 5 secondary schools in Uganda where we offer basic programming to young women including repair in one of the schools. Code girls ( 7-13 yrs) is for primary schools and we are starting this in second term and during holidays. “.
Up until now, reading, writing and arithmetic has been described as the pre-requisites to literacy. But now, in the information age where the technology is not just a companion, but even more “intimate” with wearable computing such as smartwatches, maybe the industrial age definition of literacy now needs to be redefined.