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Coding as a Tool for Youth Economic Empowerment

May 08, 2015

In Nigeria, unemployment rose from 5.3% in 2007 to 23.9% in 2012, according the National Bureau of Statistics. As an economy that is largely dependent on the sale of crude oil, your guess about the state of the economy is as good as mine - considering the colossal fall of oil prices in the international market.

One thing developed countries have realised long before now is that natural resources alone do not make a nation prosperous, but the ability to create and add value using the intellect does. Singapore is a city-state with a population of 5.5million people, its land area is five times smaller than Lagos State and has very limited amounts of coal, oil and natural gas. Yet it had the 3rd highest GDP (PPP) per capita income in the world  as at 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund. One way Nigerians can start creating value is by using use information technology to develop solutions.

Our world today has been inextricably connected and influenced by technology. Our daily lives ranging from communication to mobility, shelter, medical and even feeding today is influenced by the impact of technology. Sadly, in Nigeria, and even in the technologically advanced countries, many young people who consume technology products and services have little or no knowledge of how technology works or how to read and write the language of technology.

The United States Bureau of Labour Statistics stated that 1.4 million computing jobs will be created by 2020. With the current rate of enrolment into computer science degree programs, only about 400,000 graduates will be produced by American Universities and Colleges by 2020. That leaves an excess of 1 million jobs worth $500 billion begging to be taken. I believe we can begin to prepare our teenagers and youths to take up some of these jobs. If you are asking how will Nigerians who can't afford a flight ticket get these jobs, it is because you have not heard of websites like Fiverr.com, Freelancer.com or UpWork.com (formerly oDesk.com), to mention a few. These sites are filled with young IT professionals from developing (and developed) economies who are taking up available jobs from different parts of the globe over the Internet.

There is no need to despair; it is not too late to join the party, yet. We need to start teaching teenagers and youths how to code - a term that refers to programming with a computer or giving the computer a set of logical instructions (software - the life blood of computer systems) to carry out a task. Programming involves a new way of thinking about problem-solving: it's called computational thinking and it's about understanding the difference between human and artificial intelligence; thinking recursively; being alert to the need for prevention, detection and protection against risks; using abstraction and decomposition when tackling large tasks; and deploying heuristic reasoning, iteration and search to discover solutions to complex problems. All these, you will agree, are needed fluencies in the technology-driven world we now live in.

The best part of the story is that the only requisite knowledge to enter the magical world of coding/programming is basic reading, writing and arithmetic; this is why primary school children can start learning it too. The acquisition of programming skills gives teenagers and youths the ability to proffer IT solutions to problems in their environment. Mike Murdock once said, “money is the reward for solving problems”, so arming youths with the skills to solve all sorts of problems empowers them to create wealth. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder), Jack Dorsey (Twitter founder) and Larry Page (Google co-founder) are examples of what young people can do with knowledge of this skill.

So, join us as we take coding to schools and other places where we can find talented people who are willing to succeed, and become great entrepreneurs ready to change the world.

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