Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Technical literacy, as taught in secondary schools in Europe and Ireland, tends to extend no further than an education in basic computer skills, such as word processing and spreadsheet competence. It is based around the “European Computer Driving License,” an archaic and expensive qualification that does not allow young people to engage with technology in a proactive way or contribute to the growth of new ideas. Additionally, the rate of change and innovation in technology is so fast that schools and universities are incapable of keeping pace. Computer science curriculum can change only 4% per year as university policy, which drastically limits the ability to keep up with the tech field that surfaces new innovations and updates weekly. Faced with no systemic educational tools to learn how technology works and how to create it themselves, young people are forced to pursue ad hoc training or other interests. In addition, women are dramatically underrepresented in the tech field.
There is huge demand for people who can navigate effectively in the tech world, an ecosystem in which everything is either a threat or an opportunity based on one’s ability, or lack there of, to understand and navigate it. While the tech world used to be completely open, today it is rife with restrictions and barriers, killing creativity in a field that often defines creativity. On the one hand, governments are trying to police and regulate the web, with bills such as SOPA and PIPA, while tech powerhouses are making privacy rights and data access more cryptic to the everyday user.
The inability to competently and actively break down the walls in tech as quickly as they are built up carries with it a great deal of lost economic opportunity. In a country with unemployment hovering at fourteen percent, with youth unemployment at thirty nine percent, the tech sector in Ireland has 10,000 unfilled jobs. There is a great gap in tech talent in Ireland, despite a concentration of the top tech firms in the world located in Dublin, including Google European Headquarters, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Zynga. These major companies locate in Ireland, yet find themselves forced to import the majority of skilled labor from elsewhere in Europe.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
James is building a citizen movement of young technology experts with the necessary skills to keep up with the rapidly evolving field of technology. He has crafted a global network of free coding clubs built on action-based learning, collaboration, and open source principles. Not only is James equipping boys and girls with the skills to actively contribute to technology, a key influence in their lives today, but he is also empowering them to combat the growing restrictions and barriers of technology. The openness of the internet used to be its greatest strength, but it is growing more restricted as it develops.
James’ work addresses the reality that while citizens are active users of the internet, most do not possess the technical knowledge to understand its reach into their privacy and are ill equipped to contribute new innovation. James’ movement is seeding a whole generation of tech experts and a skilled workforce, and is bringing excluded populations such as girls and rural residents. Beyond that, through its collaborative, open source approach, CoderDojo is creating a generation of citizen coders -- kids and mentors developing into empathetic collaborators while actively contributing to the technological forces that increasingly shape their world.