As I sat in the front row of the European Parliament debating chamber during EU Code Week, gathered with 30 children aged between eight and sixteen, I recognised the extent of the responsibility resting on their young shoulders.
The internet is one of the greatest tools that’s ever been invented. It can bring the world to your door step, teach you new things, inspire debates, movements and revolutions. It connects you to others in a way never before possible.
The internet has the ability to create so much good, which is why we need to fully prepare these young people – who will be building the internet of the future – with the right knowledge and skills in order to harness its power.
This is the reason Liberty Global is committed to empowering young people to learn crucial coding skills. Coding has grown to become an essential element of a young person’s education, with over a third of EU countries already integrating it into the curriculum at primary school level. ICT capabilities are vital in today’s world, but it’s also important to emphasize how these digital skills can be used to generate a positive social impact.
EU Code Week is a grass-roots movement that celebrates creativity, problem solving and collaboration through programming and other tech activities. With this in mind, we travelled to the European Parliament last month to launch our Future Makers Social Enterprise Bento Box, in collaboration with CoderDojo – a global volunteer-led community of free programing workshops for young.
The Bento Box is an online guide which teaches young people how to design a technical solution for a problem they’ve identified in their community and then share that solution with others. It combines the technical, problem solving and creative skills that are necessary in order to thrive in today’s digital economy and create a positive social impact.
It’s an astonishing reality that coding may be obsolete by the time these young people enter the workforce – replaced instead by Artificial Intelligence and self-learning machines. Therefore it is the critical and creative thinking process – the ability to identify and solve a problem – which is the real super-hero skill, with coding providing the practical outlet to present the solution.
Each year we celebrate the young people who have challenged themselves in this way, with the Future Makers Awards program. Awards winners combine their coding and problem-solving skills to invent, innovate and create a digital solution to a societal problem. This has included a ‘smart’ cane to help visually-impaired people, face recognition software to find missing people and a wearable device to stop drivers falling asleep at the wheel. I am constantly amazed by the innovation and imagination demonstrated by our youth, and it’s encouraging to know the future is in their capable hands.
The Bento Box guide and partnership with CoderDojo is part of our wider Digital Imagination program aimed at using the liberating potential of connectivity and technology to fuel people’s imaginations and help them unlock their ability to create positive change in the world. As well as targeting young people, the program supports entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses, encouraging them to propel their ideas to the next level by unlocking their digital potential.
The Bento Box guide will now be integrated into the CoderDojo programing clubs and shared with hundreds of volunteers and children each week. We will keep creating and investing in initiatives like this so that everyone, young and old, can learn essential ICT skills that will help them to take advantage of the opportunities technology offers.