UK tech heros and the goto effect

Do you recognise this woman? 

Screen_shot_2012-08-05_at_12

How about this woman?

Screen_shot_2012-08-05_at_12

or this man?

Screen_shot_2012-08-05_at_12

How about this man? πŸ˜‰

Screen_shot_2012-08-05_at_12

They are all amazing UK tech heroes. People from the UK who have done amazing things in the technology sector, but do we know about them and their achievements? We all know about Sir Tim Berners Lee, but do we all know about the others? Probably not.

They are Dame Stephanie Shirley who set up F International in the 1960s, Dina St Johnston who set up the world’s first software house, amd Tommy Flowers inventor of Colossus, the world’s first programmable, digital computer.

In the UK we have an *amazing* tech heritage, but for some reason technology/computing/IT is seen as something boring and a thing that boffins or nerds do. That annoys me, it annoys me so much that I’ve set up a foundation to sort it out. 

At a conference a few months ago a leading UK economist said that the success of a nation depends on it having at least one of the following:

1. Cash

2. Commodities

3. Creativity

In the UK we only have creativity. But, creativity is something that we excel at πŸ™‚

Read “Crisis Focus: The Cs to economic success” for more details.

In 2012 the world is rapidly becoming a global marketplace. In the UK, because of our history, our success during the industrial revolution, we have got used to being one of the world’s movers and shakers and to calling the shots. But that time is coming to an end. 

A truly global marketplace will mean that previous power structures that have existed will change or cease to exist. We are seeing the beginning of this already with the Arab Spring, but this is just the beginning. Over the next few years this will affect us in the UK more and more. We need to think hard about what our position will be, and how we will sustain a UK economy when we don’t have computer science in schools and most people are completely switched off by technology, unless it is a gadget that they can use. We need technology innovators and creators.

So what can we do? Well, we have an amazing tech heritage, we also have an amazing history of invention, innovation and creativity. We have key strengths.

But, more and more, technology enables innovation. So, if we are not keen on technology we will not be maximising our potential for innovation. 

We need to get everyone in the UK more tech savvy. We need people to understand a bit more about the creation and production of technology so that they feel more comfortable with it, and understand a bit more about how it all works, and fits together.

The more that everyone feels comfortable with technology, the more people will use technology to innovate. More innovation leads to increased productivity, increased productivity leads to economic growth and to the UK being successful in the global marketplace. This also means a better standard of living for those of us in the UK, or at least no drop in standard of living.

I’ve put my ideas into a graphic which I’ve called “The <goto> effect”. 

 

Screen_shot_2012-08-05_at_19

I gave a short talk about all of this a couple of weeks ago at the Computer Weekly “Influential Women in UK IT” event. My slides for the event are here. 

We need to make the <goto> effect happen in the UK. We need to get everyone excited about technology, more tech savvy and creating stuff using technology. We don’t need everyone to become a programmer, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone has a better idea of how a program works? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone felt that they could have a go at creating an app that would improve their life in some way?

Ok, so some people will never be interested, I expect that’s true. But, everyone *could* do it. The <goto> Foundation’s first event #gototech was all about showing that 7 year old kids could do it. They designed apps with AppsforGood, they did a bit of programming in Scratch, they plugged a peripheral device into a Raspberry Pi. If 7 year olds can do that, so can almost anyone in the UK. 

We can become a tech savvy nation, but we need to get on with it. The <goto> Foundation needs your help to make it happen. Check out my previous blogpost <goto> needs you! We can do IT! for details.

Our <goto> Foundation first event was a phenomenal success and we have great plans to make all of this happen. But we need your help. If you want to work with us to make the UK #techfabulous, please get in touch: sue at gotofdn dot org

Computer says YES!! :))

 

 

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Way to go, Sue! And what a great time to give this a push… As the past week has shown, when we put our hearts into it this little island can still punch above its weight. To add a few more Cs to yours, with commitment and creativity we can show we’re champions – whether that’s in the Olympic Park or beyond. Happy to help out any way I can.

  2. Way to go, Sue! And what a great time to be giving this a push… As the past week has shown, when we put our hearts and minds into it, this little island can still punch above its weight. To add a few more Cs to yours, with creativity and commitment we can be champions – whether in the Olympic Park, the world of computing, or beyond. Happy to help any way I can. πŸ™‚

  3. Sue, I’m a techie/science fan and I don’t recognise those people! I think people really overestimate the importance of facial recognition, much more important to know what they did. On the other hand, anyone who doesn’t know Hedy Lamarr is missing out – she’s crying out for a TV treatment.Given Gove’s reorganisation of the computing curriculum, we have a real opportunity now to improve understanding of what is behind our magic boxes at a young level: but ti’s also important not to forget adults. or let them hide behind saying ‘it’s too complicated!’ My grandad taught himself DOS and computer assembly when he retired, people should be able to do these things.But, I’m not sure I agree with some people’s insistence that ‘everyone should code’. personally I’m a bit crap at it and feel it takes too much specialism and time investment. Do you have a list/target of basic ‘computer literacy’ you would aspire to roll out?

  4. We need more people supporting this. We just cannot afford to be left behind in the UK. We have created so many "IT" pioneers in this country, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s. to name just a few. I hope that list will get longer, but the question is will we be able to add to it in the future ? Not without change. The <goto> Foundation offers a real hope for a bright future. Right now, with London 2012 in full swing athlete’s like Jessica Ennis are inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. Sue Black with The <goto> Foundation is doing just the same for our future geek heroes.The same way people are backing TeamGB, lets back TeamGOTO.

  5. We need more people supporting this. We just cannot afford to be left behind in the UK. We have created so many "IT" pioneers in this country, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s. to name just a few. I hope that list will get longer, but the question is will we be able to add to it in the future ? Not without change. The <goto> Foundation offers a real hope for a bright future. Right now, with London 2012 in full swing athlete’s like Jessica Ennis are inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. Sue Black with The <goto> Foundation is doing just the same for our future geek heroes.The same way people are backing TeamGB, lets back TeamGOTO.

  6. We need more people supporting this. We just cannot afford to be left behind in the UK. We have created so many "IT" pioneers in this country, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s. to name just a few. I hope that list will get longer, but the question is will we be able to add to it in the future ? Not without change. The <goto> Foundation offers a real hope for a bright future. Right now, with London 2012 in full swing athlete’s like Jessica Ennis are inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. Sue Black with The <goto> Foundation is doing just the same for our future geek heroes.The same way people are backing TeamGB, lets back TeamGOTO.

  7. We need more people supporting this. We just cannot afford to be left behind in the UK. We have created so many "IT" pioneers in this country, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s. to name just a few. I hope that list will get longer, but the question is will we be able to add to it in the future ? Not without change. The <goto> Foundation offers a real hope for a bright future. Right now, with London 2012 in full swing athlete’s like Jessica Ennis are inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. Sue Black with The <goto> Foundation is doing just the same for our future geek heroes.The same way people are backing TeamGB, lets back TeamGOTO.

  8. Our economic and industrial history is littered with inventions and ideas that we had first, but others made more of.We invented and built the first computer (got to Bletchley Park ti find out more). To look at the computer industry now, you’d hardly beleive it.We need to move IT skills in the schools and elsewhere from being a driver of a computer (a Word & Excel wiz) to a skillset that enables innovation, new companies, a bigger and better industrial sector; and ultimately a stronger information base.I don’t know what the right answer is – probably no one has the right solution. But knowing her, I’m sure Sue and <goto> will be a positive contribution to it.

  9. I believe strongly that basic IT/tech literacy should be as much a part of an adult’s core skills as the ‘three Rs’. I couldn’t see from the <goto> info what kinds of activities you have in mind (if any) to promote that.I learnt to code a little from an early age and I think children should be given the opportunity to do just that. However, I don’t code a great deal in my job and haven’t for most of my career. I’ve been working in IT, primarly with End User technologies and services, for 18 years, and what I do is mainly ‘integration’ – taking stuff other people have created, making it work together, and (most importantly) making sure it helps people achieve what they need it to.And that’s the part I’m passionate about. We have ITIL and other frameworks to help businesses align their IT spending with their commercial goals. It would be great if there was a way to do something like that for people – helping individuals and families choose and use technology in a way that positively impacts their lives.If any of that sounds like it aligns with the aims of <goto> then please let me know how I can help πŸ™‚

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