For most people it is not a surprise that the IT-sector will be one of the corner stones of the society in the future. According to the EU, Europe will need one million new programmers by 2020! Some even argue that basic knowledge in programming will be as vital for the common person as reading and writing. However it is a skill that needs to be developed, not only for the future, but to be used right now! Despite this, programming is not taught in school as part of the general curriculum, neither in Sweden nor in Serbia. This can in the long run create problems for many companies all around Europe to find competent developers.
In Sweden local initiatives coordinated by a non-profit organization called Kodcentrum have begun to support children with after school programming activities. These activities aim at introducing children to digital creation and providing a space for children to spend their after school time with meaningful and innovative activities, led by parents, programmers and professionals.
The Embassy of Sweden, in collaboration with local Swedish ICT companies such as Emeric, Verisec, Seavus and Ericsson decided to invite Kodskolan to Serbia in order to organize a similar event for children under the name of AjSiTi Hack. Approximately 40 children between the ages of 7-13 were invited to the Serbian business incubator, ICT Hub in Belgrade on Sunday, 22 November 2015 where they spent a couple of hours learning how to program. The Swedish companies supported the event by providing volunteers that were assisting the children in solving tasks or in developing their own games, which they did to great success. Several of the volunteers were impressed by the children’s creativity when approaching different programming tasks:
“I was really surprised how creative kids can be and how fast they learn. I think I have learned almost as much as they did; now I know how to draw a circle in 30 different ways and how the same problem can be solved in 30 different ways.” – Ognjen Radovic’, Emric.
The programming language they used is called Scratch and is specially developed for children to program in a fun and easy way. The idea is not to show children how to code but to help them think in a way that creates simple algorithms turning their imagination into reality.
Hopefully AjSiTi Hack can act as a door opener for similar projects in the future aiming at encouraging children and adults to think about programming as a fun and creative activity that might be useful in the future.