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Can Cloud Computing help UK Education deliver the IT skills of the future?

As IT takes ever bigger strides towards a software centric world whether application or infrastructure based, I couldn’t help but notice the ever increasing lack of young people within the software arena of IT, both here where I live in Jersey and the UK generally. So I decided to dig deeper into the Channel Islands and UK education systems to see what, if anything, cloud computing could do to help encourage young people into the world of IT and, specifically, software development.

As we move ever closer to a true on demand computing environment, delivering both consumer and business based technology services through the cloud, I realised that it was ironic that the very place where we need to encourage and nurture innovation, and the people for whom this new way of accessing services will be the norm currently have very little and, in most cases, no access to the very technology used to deliver these services. Therefore, they have a very poor understanding of its potential, which is very disappointing. But if it were there, would it really generate the next generation of businesses able to grasp the global market that is the Internet?

I do, because I think back to when I was 13 and my dad brought home the Sinclair ZX81, my view of what I wanted to do changed overnight. Why? Because I had access to a world I had never seen before but yet I could see it had the potential to change everything around me and I felt I could be part of that.

Young people these days have access to all sorts of technology far more powerful than the ZX81 but the difference now is that they use it rather than understanding how it works and because of that lack of understanding they can’t see the more important aspect; what they could make it do if only they had the knowledge to create and innovate.

By giving young people access to the very technology that will ultimately drive the world they live and work in now will help the Channel Islands and the UK compete in what will become a very crowded market. Countries around the world are rushing to establish themselves as places of excellence in this space so the Channel Islands and the UK need to start inspiring and empowering the next generation and this is where cloud can really help.

By giving young people access to cloud environments we can encourage and inspire them, not only through formal coursework but also through Computer Clubs, both in and out of school time, through youth services and from home. In turn this will help them to realise just how broad a career IT really is. It is generally agreed that the modern computer was invented in the UK, a British guy created the world wide web and we are one of the leaders of computer games development in the world to name but a few examples.

I feel that the cloud will have a particularly big impact on future software developers and, therefore, the business they will ultimately work for due to the emergence of Open Source Platform-as-a-Service offerings that are now available and the multitude of programming languages and frameworks that they support. I see this new way of developing in the same light as my dad bringing home the ZX81 and opening me up to a whole new world, this modern version will achieve similar results in my mind for those who want to grab the opportunity it offers.This will of course need more than just mine and similar minded people’s aspirations, it will need governments, businesses, schools and technologists to come together to make this happen.

I’m convinced that if we don’t then other countries will leave us trailing behind and we will be wondering why we aren’t competing and innovating in an area that we have led so many times before.

By Julian Box, Posted 19th January 2012.