CoderDojo, a weekly coding club began only three years ago in Cork, has grown to become a global movement with the potential to teach coding to 100,000 kids worldwide in the next 18 months.
Started in 2011 by then-19-year-old James Whelton and successful tech investor Bill Liao, CoderDojo has a reach of 525 clubs worldwide teaching 25,000 kids to code on any given Saturday. This includes 350 dojos instructing 15,000 kids in Europe alone.
Today, some 30 CoderDojo students from Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Romania gathered for the second year in a row at the European Parliament in Brussels to drive home the importance of learning how to code at a young age.
CoderDojo’s recently appointed CEO Mary Moloney said the ambition for CoderDojo is to grow the movement from 25,000 currently to 100,000 in the next 18 months.
Notably, the event took place following EU Code Week and Sean Kelly MEP used the occasion to call on all 700 MEPs to become ambassadors for CoderDojo by establishing dojos in their constituencies.
“Right now, there are 900,000 job vacancies in ICT across Europe because of a lack of skills,” Kelly told the gathering of coders and MEPs.
“This will not be fixed through formal education.
“The CoderDojo movement is now across 50 countries and more than 500 clubs helping young people to be cool through coding. What they learn they will pass on to other kids; learners and teachers in one go. Without volunteers it wouldn’t happen. The movement has the potential to probably surpass the GAA in size and we owe a lot to Bill Liao and James Whelton.”
Kelly said he has asked the commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe to release ERASMUS Plus funding to help grow the CoderDojo movement.
The president and chairman of Samsung Europe SW Kim told the coders and MEPs that CoderDojo has been an inspiration and has influenced the global Samsung Coding Master Class programme, which aims to reach 50,000 kids in 1,000 schools.
The SVP and chief policy officer of UPC parent Liberty Global, Manuel Kohnstamm, echoed that sentiment. He described the movement as motivational and said his organisation has embraced CoderDojo in Ireland and Belgium, and is planning to support the reach of 2,000 students via CoderDojo across its European footprint. Liberty Global is planning 10 CoderDojos in Ireland this year and more than 60 overall across the full Liberty Global European footprint of 12 countries.
‘Coding is driving the fundamental prosperity of our existence’
Liao spoke movingly about how he and Whelton were motivated to start CoderDojo in order to democratise access to coding skills.
“When you think about coding being the lingua franca of our times, coding actually goes beyond that because it is now how we talk to the universe. We send messages into the ether via code. 3D printers allow us to design and build physical objects by code. Cars move physically thanks to code.
“In fact DNA, the stuff we are built of, is digital. Through code, bacteria can be modified to make the insulin that my daughter needs to take every day.”
Liao said the world came close to a disaster in recent years in terms of becoming a place where a skill so powerful as coding was in the hand of too few.
“Much of the innovation and prosperity that we take for granted today could have evaporated.
“Many adults and teachers I meet today have no idea how to code and yet code is driving the fundamental prosperity of our existence.
“It enables our ability to interact with the universe and if only a few people know how to code it is the least democratic situation you can have.
“CoderDojo is more than just stimulating kids to have fun, but an enabler to let kids be something that can impact on literally every field of human endeavour, as well as engineering and technological endeavour.”
Liao used football analogies to explain that coding is just as much a team-oriented effort.
“If you want to be a football master or virtuoso, you need to join a club. The same is true for coding, you need to do this together.
“For too long this idea that coding is a lonely pursuit existed, this is an illusion borne of the fact that no one was learning together.
“Kids learning to work collaboratively win at football, they can also win at coding.
“The ambition we had when James and I started CoderDojo was to democratise coding. We are far away from achieving that ambition. Only through the tireless efforts of volunteers and your kids’ passion for learning can we succeed.”
Don’t miss our Innovation Ireland Forum on 24 October in the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin