Things we learned at Web Summit 2 - Code Literacy

Posted by JJ (Hans) VAN DER LAAN on 05 December 2017 11:57:50 CET


Bridging the code literacy gap

At Biz Dev Corp we genuinely care about coding and we could fill many blogs with the importance of coding or the threat of the shortage of coders. But have we ever spent time on the purpose of understanding code? Not really.  At Web Summit we listened to Rebecca Parsons, Chief Technology Officer of ThoughtWorks, who told us the following: “The purpose of understanding code is not to write code. You could make an analogy with the purpose of writing. Not everybody who can write, wants to write a novel. But because I can write, I can appreciate a Hemingway novel.”

What is a code literacy gap?

This thought got us hooked for the rest of her presentation. And on Ms Parsons went with explaining the issue of the code literacy gap. This gap can be explained as follows: with the growing integration of technology into our lives, the few are creating solutions for the many. This has led to software created with the best of intentions excluding the contexts of the diverse lives they affect. Ms Parsons stated that we should work towards narrowing that gap so that people can have agency over software that may drastically impact their lives.

Take out the magic, increase the understanding

But how can this gap be narrowed? The first advice we received was to demystify technology and coding in particular. Take out the magic and increase understanding and knowledge of it. Once a basic understanding has been established, more people will feel empowered to participate in the creation of technology. And this is especially helpful when it gets people to create technology to solve their own problems.

Encourage curiosity about coding

As a next step we should encourage and allow people to be curious around technology and coding. The big problems our society is facing — the aging society, the climate change, decline of natural resources, etc.— these problems require a great deal of creativity. The more problem solvers we can get involved in tackling them, the greater our chance of producing truly revolutionary solutions.

While walking around the WebSummit we could see Ms Parsons' advices be put into action: health tech start-ups are pitching solutions to help the elderly and needy in local communities, while 5G technology enabled the first communication after hurricane Maria.

The advice we took home

The purpose of coding is not to write code. That advice was noted down and given some additional thought. If you feel that you will never master the science of writing code, why not build an understanding and an appreciation for it? There are plenty of ways to do this. From right clicking your mouse to see the source code of this website, to watching a video about coding on YouTube about a coder explaining his passion or by publishing something online such as a blog :-).  And if you feel hungry for more , then check out our Tech Fundamentals course!



Would you like to take out the magic and increase the understanding for coding in your organisation?


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Topics: Coding, Tech Fundamentals