Code For Malaysia Campaign
KUALA LUMPUR (7 May 2014) – Hundreds of students from primary, secondary and tertiary education institutions across Malaysia were in for a treat when they participated in Microsoft’s Malaysia’s (“Microsoft) inaugural Code for Malaysia campaign. More than just a regular “how-to-code” initiative, students were given the opportunity to learn coding alongside local celebrities such as actress Sazlini Shamsul Falak, national youth icon Michael Teoh and beauty pageant title holder Deborah Henry. The week long campaign, which recently concluded, culminated with the launch of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre), which saw 70 students learning to code and having the privilege of engaging with USA President Barack Obama and Malaysia Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak.
Code for Malaysia, which kicked off from 19 April, was inspired by Code.org’s successful ‘Hour of Code’ campaign – which was spearheaded by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher and Shakira. The campaign was held in collaboration with local partners including six education institutions, to encourage young people to hold basic coding training or hold a hack-a-thon in schools, community centres, universities – basically anywhere.
Carlos Lacerda, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia explained the importance of a joint effort amongst the government, private sector and other key stakeholders to inculcate coding amongst the younger generation, “Every nation knows that the future wellbeing of a country lies with the younger generation – this is the same with Malaysia. We’ve seen the government collaborate with various parties over the years to empower entrepreneurialism and leadership amongst the young. A prime example of such collaboration would be the launch of MaGIC, and as a technology company, we too share that responsibility, which is exactly what initiatives like Code for Malaysia is set out to achieve. By focusing on one simple, attainable campaign, and tying it to the younger generation’s innate love of gadgets and apps, we hope to channel the energy of youth into a loud demand for more resources, education and skills training in coding.”
MaGIC, a center aimed at transforming Malaysia into a dynamic entrepreneurial nation by enabling domestic and international entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, was co-launched by USA President Barack Obama and Dato’ Sri Najib Razak at Cyberjaya late last month. Addressing an enthusiastic audience which included 70 eager students, Obama said, “As Prime Minister Najib indicated, we are here because we have a shared commitment to fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship, especially among our young people. We want you to be able to create things and start your own companies and your own businesses, and come up with your own products and services, because that’s how our societies grow. And the dreams and talents of these young people help to fuel our economies and create jobs, and they also bring our countries closer together.”
During the launch, Barack Obama and Dato’ Sri Najib Razak browsed the exhibition booths and spoke to entrepreneurs and young students. Eleven year old Siti Lyana Binti Azman from Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Taman Megah was one of the lucky students who got to speak to Barack Obama, “President Obama asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was learning to code by playing Angry Birds. It was really fun and easy because the Surface device that I was using was touch-screen and it made it really easy to use when I was learning to code.”
The launch of MaGIC would seem timely amidst a recent Global Employment Trends 2014 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which states that youth unemployment remains a major challenge in Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia. According to the report, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Malaysia was slightly above 11 percent in 2013, which was almost four times that of the total unemployment rate, and even more alarming, nearly eight times that of the adult unemployment rate. Comparing Malaysia’s figures to that of the region, Malaysia’s youth-to-adult unemployment ratio in 2013 was almost 8:1, whereas the region’s average was approximately 5:1. The report summarizes that given the young demographic profile of many of the countries in the region, equipping youth with education and skills to obtain productive jobs are likely to remain key policy concerns for many governments.
“By 2020, there will be 1.2 million computer science jobs available worldwide with only 400 thousand students learning to code. There is a great opportunity to be filled against a backdrop of a highly competitive workplace. It is therefore imperative that young people understand computer science and basic programming as those skills are the foundation for many jobs today as well as the future,” said Lacerda.
Echoing Lacerda’s sentiments, beauty pageant titleholder Deborah Henry enthused that while coding was important, it was equally essential to make it accessible to children and youth of all ages, “Coding should be fun and easily understood, and thanks to Microsoft and Code.org, it actually is. Through Code for Malaysia, there are tonnes of tutorials, lessons and mentoring programs that anyone can take advantage of to learn the fundamentals of coding, and the best part of all this is, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand code. If I can do it, anyone can!”
Code.org’s ‘Hour of Code’ aims to introduce computer programming to 10 million students and encourage them to learn programming. It is a one-hour basic introduction to Computer Science, designed to demystify “code” and prove that anyone can learn the fundamentals of computer programming. Code for Malaysia extends the ‘Hour of Code’ by dedicating an entire week nationwide, to demonstrate how accessible learning coding can be, and create interest in expanded programming and computer science courses and activities in schools.