I’ve an exciting announcement! I’m setting up a non-profit organisation to promote computer science :)
I’ve been interested in and excited about computer science since I first studied it at Southwark College in 1989. Taking a degree in computing studies and a PhD in software engineering and spending many years as a computer science academic and researcher have only deepened my interest and excitement in computing. I love computing and I love learning about the history of computing. I think that technology is the future, and the technology that is our future is based on computer science.
If you know anything about me, you probably know that I’m a great fan of Bletchley Park, that amazing place where the codebreakers worked during the Second World War. The work carried out there shortened the war by at least two years potentially saving 22 million lives. One of the machines invented and used there was Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital computer. One of the people that worked there as a codebreaker was Alan Turing, the father of computer science.
Over the years, I’ve become more and more frustrated with people not understanding the importance of computer science. Frustrated with people not understanding the fundamental role that it (very quietly) plays in our everyday lives. There seems generally to be negative perception of computing. If I say in conversation that I’m in computing I often end up giving advice on MS Word or Excel or being told how much money the government waste on IT systems. Most people don’t realise that computing is *so* much more than that. It is not their fault. How would they realise?
Computer science is not taught in our schools until GCSE level. How crazy is that? The perception of computing in the media in general seems to follow the sentiment of the “Computer says No!” Little Britain sketch. Very funny, but also very negative.
Most people seems to think that most of the fundamental achievements in computer science history have happened in the US, not realising that there have been many great UK achievements: LEO, Colossus, ARM… I could go on at length. Also of course the very first programmer: Ada Lovelace was from the UK. We should be celebrating this history.
Apart from my intellectual excitement in computer science, I also love the many practical, amazing things that computing can do for us. What would our lives be like now if we took computer science and all its developments away? No mobile phones, no advanced technology cars and washing machines, no ATMs (do you remember having to queue for ages to cash cheques at the bank in the 70s :-o), no fly-by-wire software on planes, no social media….no social media?! ;-o
So who cares about all that anyway? Is it really important? Yes, it is.
The current negative perception of computer science is a problem, a big problem. A problem which is going to get bigger. If our children are not taught computer science, if it is portrayed in the media as boring, if we don’t have a tech literate and computer savvy workforce how are we going to compete with other countries that do?
Our economy is depending more and more on technology and technology product related companies. This will only increase in the future. Technology is here to stay, is ever expanding and becoming more important.
Some other countries understand the importance of computer science, understand the importance of tech companies to their economy. They are the countries that in five or ten years time, or maybe even sooner will be the ones dominating the global economy.
If in the UK we continue to think “Computer says No!” we will get left behind.
We need to change this perception to “Computer says Yes!” :)
How do we do this? Well guess what? :))
I’m setting up a non-profit organisation called The <goto> Foundation which aims to sort this out. The <goto> Foundation aims to make computer science more meaningful to the general public, generate interest and excitement in computing and help to create a tech savvy workforce.
The <goto> Foundation has got off to a great start! We are delighted that UCL Engineering have agreed to support us, and fabulous news in just yesterday: Sir John Dermot Turing, Alan Turing’s nephew, has very kindly agreed to be patron for The <goto> Foundation. Yay!
We will be talking to the IT industry, to government, to anyone who will listen, about the importance of computing to our economy, to business and to us as individuals. We will be fundraising to support and encourage projects that promote our aims. Much more detail to follow.
If you have any ideas, advice or money please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you :))