Vice president of human resources, Docomo Pacific
In March of this year, a diverse group of people on Guam came together to participate in a campsite. This is not your normal campsite with a fire and BBQ. This is a virtual campsite. The Guam group joined a community of more than 200,000 people around the world to learn how to write computer code.
The organization they joined is called Free Code Camp, and the members organize themselves into local communities called Campsites. The purpose of these communities is to teach people who may never have taken a computer class in their lives to write computer code.
If you’re not sure what coding is, in simple terms, it is telling a computer what you want it to do by typing in step-by-step commands for the computer to follow. All computer programs, websites and phone applications were all written in code — from Google, to Facebook, to Angry Birds.
According to its website, “Free Code Camp is a friendly open-source community where you learn to code and help nonprofits.” And this group found all of this to be true.
By joining Free Code Camp, this group gets step-by-step tutorials that teach how to code, but it also gives participants access to 200,000 other “Campers” that they can ask for help and code with. All of this support and training is free for the campers.
Free Code Camp allows campers to create a portfolio of real apps used by real people. It focuses on not-for-profits, and it is estimated that these apps have saved not-for-profits more than $420,000 while giving the campers real-life experience.
As the Guam campsite grows, it would like to start having the same type of impact on not-for-profits here on island. If you are a not-for-profit and would like help with a coding project, all you need to do is start a conversation on the Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/free.code.camp.guam/.
But the impact doesn’t stop there. These skills are in short supply on Guam, so providing these skills free of charge has great value to the business community.
So how did such a crazy thing get started on Guam? A discussion at Docomo Pacific about the difficulty of hiring people with coding skills led to the idea of building an infrastructure of coding skills on Guam. The dream is that by building an ecosystem of skilled IT people on our island, we can create jobs in technology, increase our skilled labor pool and keep our best and brightest students on the island.
This led Docomo Pacific associate Chovin Carlson to investigate and propose Free Code Camp as a way to build IT skills in the company and the community. From this start, he reached outside the company to the university to find others who were interested in coding and helped put together the Guam Campsite. The group continues to grow and work together to learn coding.
“In the future, once we think a community like this can support itself on the island, we’d like to step back and only support it from the sidelines,” Chovin says.
From these humble beginnings, we would love to see Free Code Camp available in the Guam school system from middle school to the university level. By creating this infrastructure our hope is that, in turn, it will give our kids skills in high-paying jobs; this will infuse their knowledge into our businesses in order to grow the economy here on Guam rather than off-island.