Zuckerberg and Gates join forces to teach kids coding skills

Malicious code

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have given their backing to a new educational initiative aimed at helping children learn to code.

The initiative, called Code.org, has enlisted the two alongside other prominent names in technology. It is looking to introduce more than 10 million students to computing programming in a bid to arrest the STEM skill shortage.

The organisation has received the backing of not only Gates and Zuckerberg but also firms such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google.

Part of the project, dubbed "Hour of Code", will provide students with an hour's introduction to computer programming.

Students can take hour-long tutorials that can be completed on computers and smart devices whether they are on- or offline. The tutorials have been created in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook.

The tutorials also sport games that teach basic principles of coding and will also feature guest lectures by Gates and Zuckerberg.

Code.org chief executive and co-founder Hadi Partovi said the worldwide campaign was the first step in making computing an essential field of education.

"This isn't just about the tremendous job opportunities in software - every 21st-century child can benefit from learning this foundational field," said Partovi.

Teachers and others in education that host an Hour of Code for their classroom or club will receive 10GB of free storage from Dropbox. Students that take a follow-up course online will have a chance to win additional prizes, including Skype credits and online gift cards.

Schools also have the opportunity to win a group videoconference with Gates, Dorsey, or Susan Wojcicki, Google's senior vice president of advertising and commerce.

The project coincides with Computer Science Education Week, which coincides with the birthday of US computing pioneer Admiral Grace Hopper on 9 December.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.