COOK TO CODER: How low-income youth are writing a better future

Thanks to online courses and the initiatives of a few individuals, youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds are learning to crack the code
In 2014, Akash Nautiyal was robbed -he lost everything money , laptop, books, clothes, and since he didn’t have cash to get to the call centre he worked at, he lost his job. His landlord evicted him, and Nautiyal, then 17, took up a job as a cook for the founders of Housing.com. And that’s when the boy from Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand got interested in coding.Nautiyal saw them hunched over their computers coding all day and asked them about it. “Working there I picked up basics of HTML, CSS, Java and could make a web page. Later, with the help of online learning resources, I learnt more and now I’m working as an iOS coder with Impactrun, a fitness app that supports social causes,” he says. He now earns up to Rs 70,000 a month as a coder, a significant improvement on the Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 he used to earn a month doing odd jobs earlier.

Nautiyal isn’t the only who’s cracked the code that made software development the preserve of the middle and upper classes. Children from underprivileged backgrounds are learning to write instructions (code) for computer programmes, which run apps, websites, operation systems and more, and in the process creating new lives for themselves.

Easy to pick up

Helping some of them do so is Francesco Stasi, an Italian national who heads India operations for CodersTrust, a Danish learn-and-earn platform for freelance cod ers. “Coding doesn’t need formal education. Anyone can learn it. This makes it attractive to students from poorer backgrounds who often haven’t completed their formal education,” says Stasi. “A cook in urban India earns up to $50 (about Rs3,000) a month while a coder can earn around $15 (Rs1,000) an hour,” points out Stasi, who set up the trust’s India arm in Gurugram in March. It has enrolled more than 1,000 students from both privileged and underprivileged backgrounds and subsidizes education for bright students from poor families.

Anuj Nirmal, 15, the son of istriwallahs who launder and iron clothes and live in a chawl in Goregaon, Mumbai, is determined to become a professional coder. He doesn’t have his own computer but works after school at a cyber café, where the owner allows him to study as well. “I taught myself HTML and CSS and now I am learning Java from codeacademy .com,” says Nirmal who aims to set up his own company that designs websites, apps and machines. His interest extends to robotics as well. He’s a fan of Ironman and dreams of building a robot like Jarvis.

Bridging tech divide

Wealthy children across the globe are already exposed to coding at an early age, either at school or outside, but there aren’t many such initiatives for children from economic and social minorities. In the US, #Yeswecode, launched by social justice accelerator Van Jones’ Dream Corps, connects 100,000 under-represented minorities to careers in technology.Black Girls Code, a not-for-profit organization, works towards providing technical education to African-American girls aged seven to 17.

Such large-scale organized efforts are missing in India but individuals have been filling the gap. Filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan taught three girls in Dharavi to code in 2014.”We put up a chart paper and wrote down all the problems we face every day . For the next three months, we built apps to solve the problems using the MIT app developer,” says Sapna Krishna Telunga, 15, who with her friends Roshni Yasin Shaikh and Kiran Verma built three apps focused on sourcing water, education and women’s safety . Padhai Hai Mera Hak, is a primary school lesson app, while Paani Hai Jeevan sends notifications on the best time to fetch water from the neighbourhood communal tap.

Vinay Chadha, 50, a Noida-based entrepreneur, has been teaching Python, a coding language, to children in Nithari in UP’s Noida district. “Children learn by observation, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle.They write simple code, like making a screen change colour with the press of a button,“ explains Chadha, whose free Sunday class has about 25 children. Their parents are rickshaw pullers, roadside tailors or domestic help.

Learning to code can do more for a child than up his or her earning potential. “Coding inculcates logical thinking in a person.Coders are analytical and critical. So both these factors combined can have a huge impact on society ,” says Stasi. Looks like the future is being written in code.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

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Author:

Neeraj; an entrepreneur & a visionary in the field of Railway, Defense & Automobiles, is a graduate in commerce and a Harvard Business School Alumni. He’s an expert in govt. liasoning & contracting and has an exceptional network & connections at both local as well as global level. He’s an expert in Market Strategy & Planning and has served number of overseas companies as an advisor/consultant. He takes a profound interest in upcoming startups & is very receptive towards ground-breaking ideas & innovations. He likes to brainstorm those ideas and if the values & philosophies matches; he is even ready to invest his resources, serve as a mentor or act as an incubator to futuristic businesses.

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