“Coding for Kids: How to speak fluent digital.” (Blog III)

Just imagine, 1024 kids from all over the Netherlands gathered in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. Young girls and boys between 7 and 12 learning how to programme behind their screens and being coached by inspiring mentors or helping out each other. What an atmosphere and energy! And what was most striking, you could feel the concentration, the fun of developing your own game, together with others. A #MegaCoderDojo with a very personal touch. One girl was developing her own game which was all about a rocket trying to evade falling stars.

The event was part of the Codepact, an initiative by StartupDelta. Last year we brainstormed with Marieke Dekker from Ziggo what their role could be and how Ziggo could reinforce the Dutch innovative startup ecosystem. Very quickly we came up with the idea to turn the Ziggo dome, into a Kiddo Dome for Coding. An idea was born! This is how StartupDelta works. No paper production, but create energising activities with organisations who have the ambition to change things and add to strengthening the Dutch ecosystem. Building the future together. Or, better, "scratching the future" together, because Scratch provided the programme for coding.

Ziggo will continue to support Coder Dojo's. Also during the StartupFestEurope in May this year they will organise Coder Dojo's in the main Dutch hubs. A fantastic opportunity for kids, parents and teachers to get involved all over the country. A major opportunity to make sure that the Netherlands will not be divided into a country of the digital have's and have not's. Digital skills, including coding should be available to every child. During the event this week an enthusiastic mother came to us and said that in the East of Amsterdam hundreds of children lived who would love to be introduced to coding.

In the coming months other corporates of the total of 32 partners of the Codepact, like IBM, Accenture and Microsoft will come forward with their initiatives on coding for the Netherlands. This way we can reach 400 times the amount of enthusiastic kids, who joined the mega coderdojo this week.

I share this ambition with the celebrity vloggers Thomas Smagge aka @Theaumes and Dylan Peys @HierIsDylan. Wouldn't it be great to develop a coding game together?  And let's not forget Nick Jordan @jorcademy. The energetic coding ambassador, personally appointed by the State Secretary for Education @SanderDekker. Since this week we have an extra 1024 young ambassadors for coding. A movement of Yambassadors for coding. The kids were keen to call on teachers, parents and the State Secretary #CoderenMoet! (Which translates to #WeNeedCode!). Rambling the gates, let's not waste time and introduce coding asap. It is cool! it is fun! Which is very important at school.

Why is coding so important to strengthen the startup ecosystem in the Netherlands? Why is coding so important as part of education?
Let's put it this way. A member of our team, who is a mother of four children, mentioned: "How can I make sure my kids will receive the right education, which will prepare them for the jobs and society of the future?"

We all know and experience around us that our society and economy is changing rapidly.  Perhaps faster than ever before. Digitisation is the main driver of this change. All economic sectors experience the impact of digitisation and IT. Probably everyone who reads this, has his or her mobile phone within half a meter distance. We use it for communication, payments, booking tickets, looking up train departures, playing games, listening to music etc.etc. And this is just the beginning of what is about to come, looking at the opportunities of an Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence.

With Codepact we are making a first step. Learning digital skills, including computational skills and coding makes an enormous difference when we picture our kids in this future. Neelie also invited the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet to experience a coding session at school, just like what was done in the UK. Everybody should try this and make up their minds.

Perhaps, the basic questions are: Do we want children to be only consumers of digitisation? Do we want them to be critical consumers, who are also resilient to the negative and risky aspects of the internet? Do we want them to be resilient, active and creative in shaping the future of the internet and the rapidly progressing digitisation of economy and society?

Everyone can answer these questions for themselves. Who wouldn't recommend strongly the last option on top of being capable users as well? Especially in the context of the plan2032. A very good and timely initiative by the State Secretary! This is the moment to make the difference and give children a kick start through education. And not only for the privileged children, but for every single one of them, in every single town or village. No digital divide in background, nor region. In Amsterdam, Heerlen, Coevorden or Rilland-Bath. The next generation should not only speak English fluently, but also master Digital. Our country should be able to say: "We speak fluent Digital!" Come and live, invest and innovate over here, since we speak your language.


Neelie Kroes, Special Envoy for Startups
Sigrid Johannisse, director StartupDelta

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