Future coders

Future coders

Primary schoolgirls introduced to computer programming

BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, April 25, 2015

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SOME 30 girls from five primary schools in Kingston and St Andrew got the chance on Thursday to dabble in coding techniques in recognition of International Girls in ICT Day during a workshop at Start Up Jamaica headquarters on Duke Street in Kingston.

Coding is tech speak for computer programming -- the process of writing, designing, and testing computer programmes.

The workshop was organised by the Jamaican Girls Coding programme in association with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM), Start Up Jamaica and Musson Foundation, and was intended to raise the awareness of coding as a profession among young girls and to encourage them to pursue studies and careers in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The Jamaican Girls Coding programme is aimed at narrowing the existing gender gap in ICT careers. It is also intended to cultivate crucial skills such as public speaking, leadership and innovation and entrepreneurship.

The schools - Clan Carthy, Mona Heights, Chetola Park and St Benedicts Primary, as well as Rennock Lodge All-Age -- were selected on the basis that they were already exposed to tablets through the Tablet in Schools pilot project.

Minister of State Julian Robinson challenged the girls to become ambassadors.

"We hope that these young ladies once they leave here, they will establish girls' youth code clubs at their schools and encourage other girls ... so that more young ladies will get into ICT," Robinson told the Jamaica Observer.

He added that many students do not view ICT as a career option simply because they are not exposed to the possibilities.

"We want Jamaicans to ultimately become producers of technology, not just consumers of technology and so, we want them not just to use the tablets for research or for GSAT, which many of them have done and that's important and for communication, but to challenge them to use the technology in a way to solve problems and come up with solutions which can form the basis of products or solutions down the road and that can generate businesses, which feeds into why we are here at Start Up Jamaica, he said.

Principal shareholder of Musson Foundation, Melanie Subratie said she intends to set up a coding programme in each school to empower girls to be architects of technology and not just customers. In addition, she said she has been working with MSTEM and to organise a summer camp in the furtherance of that goal.

Thursday's workshop was led by Senior Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Founder of Sugar Labs and the One Laptop per Child project Walter Bender.

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