The goto Foundation

Goto-foundation-on-grey_web

I’ve an exciting announcement! I’m setting up a non-profit organisation to promote computer science πŸ™‚

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!” πŸ™‚

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. 

In the meantime, please support The <goto> Foundation, ‘like’ us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. Let’s show everyone that “Computer says yes!” 

If you have any ideas, advice or money please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you :))

 

14 comments

  1. Good work! Computer science is something that permeates all layers of society, yet a majority understand little of it’s impact. Perceptions do need to be changed.

  2. I really applaud your efforts promoting IT and the creation of the foundation.A question, does the UK not find itself in a catch-22 situation ? While the major UK based companies seem to have an insatiable desire to send the best part of our development efforts "off-shore" we are rapidly loosing a big pool of developers versed in enterprise level projects.In doing so it not only makes working as a developer less attractive, leaving at best, anyone wanting to work in IT to do all the BA or Project Manager work which is all very well, but do we want to just have a nation of analysts ?We also become dependant upon countries often with dubious reputations for stability, and from first hand experience difficulties in communication.Yes cost is a very big issue for all of us, but once a company gets used to using an off-shore "partner" for development will they ever really consider bringing the work back to the UK ?IT in general, and programming specifically is just another example of a manufacturing industry in danger of being lost to the UK.

  3. This is awesome – I couldn’t agree more. Technology IS the future, no doubt about it, and it moves so fast it is imperative we not just keep up with the trailing pack, but get back up there with the leaders, where we belong!!

  4. Shouldn’t it be <goto /> ?But seriously; nice idea, and I hope it’ll have an effect … if I hear one more student tell me that "Their Internet is broken" I’m going to go postal!

  5. This looks awesome! Have you thought about contacting other groups such as @londonhackspace who already do odds and sods of this sort of thing? I can’t offer money (poor PhD student) but would love to help if possible. S

  6. Really exciting news Sue, there is so much value in this and if anyone can make a difference it’s you! I get so frustrated that my 10 year old, although really interested in computers, is only taught word and powerpoint at school.

  7. Wow – good luck Sue – another amazing initiative to push forwards this agenda – I’m looking forwards to seeing how it all pans out and giving support where possible πŸ˜‰

  8. Inspirational Sue, nice work. Really interested to see how this goes. With the workplace now allowing people to bring their own kit to work, greater understanding of the issues would be hugely beneficial. Plus, as I’m sure you realise, this project could potentially tie into all aspects of modern life – home, car, work, travel, shopping, etc.In fact, if you want to get in touch, you can find me on LinkedIn – an educated guess tells me you haven’t met a social network you didn’t like πŸ™‚ would be interesting to see what you’ve got planned (yes, I’m impatient, I know).

  9. We had a *very* interesting meeting with Dept of Education re the teaching of ‘computer science’ in schools. We were there as Coding for Kids, others round the table included Microsoft, Google, CAS, BCS, etc. Safe to say, things ARE happening. Things like <goto> are putting pressure on and making goverment, parents and technologists think more about what provision needs to be out there for children and students.

  10. Grand IDEA! I recently heard Mark Lowe, Hollywood CA graphics, special effects expert speak about his experience coding as a kid. It struck me that we have taken all the fun out of creating software. Our family started a contest for the KIDS to create iapps as it was the quickest start we could get for them to understand the FUN and Value. I would love to contribute in whatever way possible.

  11. Really exciting news Sue ! That’s wonderful news to bring such energy in promoting IT and the creation of this foundation. We absolutely need a computer savvy workforce in the UK in order to compete with other countries that do… Computer Science requires critical thinking skills, Students are starting to realize that advances in computer science are central to achieving many of our national priorities ??? in energy, education, health care, national and homeland security, scientific discovery and open government. For those who want to change the world, there is no field with greater impact or leverage than computer science. Long live the "Go To Foundation" !

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