Yesterday the Hour of Code campaign kicked off as part of the Computer Science Education Week , a global initiative with the aim of stimulating millions of students globally to follow a one-hour introduction session to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. To realise the goal, more than 191,000 events have been organised during this week across all corners of the planet. 350 partner organisations have committed their support to Hour of Code, and its founding father Code.org, including Accenture.
In light of the growing role of technology to business, governments and the private sector are of late growing their efforts to encourage greater interest in computer science. According to a recent study, by 2020, there will be 1.2 million jobs requiring computer-related skills in the US alone, yet despite an abundance of potential labour, there will be a shortage of capable skills. The trend is not just true for the US, but visible across the globe, with in particular STEM skills lacking, and more specifically, especially among women.
Over the years many initiatives have been launched globally to at a young age boost the interest for STEM skills, yet arguably none have been as successful as Code.org. The non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science launched in 2013 (established by the Iranian twin-brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi*) with a video promoting their concept, and within weeks the video went viral and in the space of a few months 15,000 schools reached out to Code.org to provide their support. Since, the US-based charity has expanded from a bootstrapped staff of volunteers to a full organisation supporting a worldwide movement. Code.org’s audacious goal is to provide every child, not just a lucky few, with a quality computer science education, with a particular focus on garnering diversity and inclusion.
To realise its objective, Code.org has amassed a massive network of supportive institutions across the education spectrum, including schools, education designers, government institutions and regulatory bodies, as well as an army of committed private sector companies, including the heavyweights likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Disney, LinkedIn and YouTube. The power of the network and philanthropic donations has thrust Code.org forward at an astonishing rate. By the end of 2013 it had translated its basic e-learning module – known as Hour of Code – into 30 languages, serving 20 million students, and by the end of 2014, its second year in business, that number had risen to 90 million. As it stands, nearly 150 million have completed the one-hour introductory lesson to computer science, and the number continues to rise fast. Code.org has since also advanced its curriculum, with more than 100 hours of follow-on education now available, currently taught in 90,000 schools worldwide.
To further boost the awareness and uptake of Hour of Code, Code.org has launched a grassroots campaign as part of ‘Computer Science Education Week’ (CSEdWeek), a week which was founded in 2009 as a call to action to raise awareness about the need to elevate computer science education at all levels**. The campaign runs this year from Monday December 7 to Sunday December 13, and aims at showing students that coding is not only important, but too can be fun. The e-learning module, which plays like a game, is given to students in class, facilitated by teachers, and runs on all devices and browsers. To make it interesting for students, the Hour of Code is available in many flavours, from Disney’s Anna and Elsa version (based on Frozen) to a Minecraft version or a Star Wars themed module.
As it stands nearly 148 million students have been served, and as the week progresses – with 191,000 registered events – the organisers plan to within days break through the barrier of 150 million, with 200 million the next major milestone hoped to be reached by the end of 2015 or else somewhere in 2016.
Among the companies committed to support Code.org’s Hour of Code initiative is Accenture, one of the globe’s largest consulting and technology firms. As part of the partnership, thousands of Accenture employees around the world (Accenture states the scope spans 186 cities across 56 countries) have pledged to complete nearly 8,000 Hours of Code during this week. In addition, Accenture employees will also on a large scale volunteer to work with teachers to help students learn the basics of computer science at local schools and events through fun, game-like online lessons***.
When it comes to Hour of Code, Accenture has clearly put its money where its mouth is, with strong commitment shown all the way from the top. Yesterday Pierre Nanterme, the firm’s global CEO, tweeted a picture of himself with a Code.org cap to the firm’s 288,000 followers, while Roxanne Taylor, the consultancy’s CMO, followed suit with a similar photo. Other Accenture executives that have freed up their agenda’s and will demonstrate active involvement include Paul Daugherty (Accenture CTO), Ellyn Shook (CHRO), and Julie Sweet (Chief Executive for North America). In the UK, among others Emma McGuigan, Senior Managing Director of Accenture's UK and Ireland Technology practice, will provide her support, while in the Netherlands, partner Katinka de Korte, who leads the firm’s diversity strategy in the country, will engage in a number of supportive activities.
Not surprisingly, Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi says he is delighted with Accenture’s support, stating “Accenture is leading by example in their efforts to support computer science education with a company-wide commitment to help students start learning skills that will prepare them for the best opportunities in any future career path.”
In November last year Accenture also signed up as a partner of Girls Who Code.
* Commenting on his motivation to launch Code.org, Hadi Partovi said “I'm a technologist at heart. I co-founded Code.org with my twin brother with the dream of bringing computer science education to every school and every student.” Besides their philanthropic work with Code.org the brothers are active as angel investors in Silicon Valley, in particular known for their early involvement (and stakes) in Facebook and Dropbox.
** The Computer Science Education Week was launched by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in December 2009, and since several institutions and companies, united in the ‘Computing in the Core coalition’ joined the organising committee. In 2013 the committee agreed to allow Code.org to organise that year’s CSEdWeek week around a new idea and theme, the ‘Hour of Code’, and after it turned out to be a large success, in 2014 the committee agreed to maintain the Hour of Code theme as the centrepiece of the week.
*** In most cases the volunteering by employees is an integrated part of Accenture’s ‘Skills to Succeed’ programme. Through the merits of the CSR programme staff can sign up to support teachers at schools with teaching coding skills.