Why does India need the BBC Micro:bit?

Kavita Kapoor MBCS explains why she thinks India needs easy access to the BBC Micro:bit.

The BBC Micro:bit is a pocket-sized, codeable computer designed to stimulate children to get creative with digital technologies.

Inspired by their educational remit the BBC designed a device to help children get to grips with coding, which ‘inspires digital creativity’. They rolled out a million Micro:bits across UK schools, targeting year-seven students.

The CEO for The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Zach Shelby, said: ‘The Micro:bit has been specially designed to help develop a new generation of digital pioneers.’ Which, in my book, is really exciting...

The device is small enough to fit into a pocket, has a screen, onboard sensors, the option to add input/output devices such as buggies and lightboxes. It was my own hands-on experience with east London kids that had me amazed at how easy it was to pick up and use.

It delivers huge capability at low cost, and can be programmed using a variety of free coding platforms - from drag-and-drop blocks to full text - on a PC, laptop or Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet. Teachers can visit www.microbit.org to access a huge range of cost-free classroom resources; it’s quick and easy.

So why India?

After all, in a Brexit era could we simply be reviving some old imperial ambitions? Not at all.

First, the BBC Micro:bit is now being developed and distributed by the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, an organisation supported by some incredible global companies. The Foundation partners include ARM, British Council, AWS and Microsoft (see microbit.org/about for a full run down) all of whom are global organisations with deep presence in the Indian technology space.

The Foundation was set up with the mission to reach more than 100 million kids worldwide. India, with its focus on education and technology services for the globe, is an ideal candidate. India exported $167 billion worth technology 2013-14 and, like elsewhere in the world, needs to train the next generation of technologists and entrepreneurs. It is also has one of the youngest populations on the planet.

As Zach, the Foundations visionary CEO, said: ’The Micro:bit was specially designed to stimulate children’s creativity with digital technologies, and India has a strong tradition of tech innovation… so we’re expecting great things from the next generation.’

Finally, building on the huge success in the UK, Micro:bit has been enthusiastically received elsewhere worldwide, and is now available to purchase in over 50 countries. So India should not miss out.

The Launch

It was my privilege to be on the ground in Mumbai to officially welcome Micro:bit to India. We launched at the DIDAC 2017 conference, where you were able to see Micro:bit in action and try your hand at mini-lessons with our ARM ambassadors. We taught the basics of coding your name on the device in minutes, bringing delight to many who didn’t think of themselves as innovators.

We also showed off the Foundation’s free web resources for students and teachers - so whether our attendees were into cricket and ‘Filmi’ songs (Bollywood) or robots and 3D printers, there was something to get excited about for everyone.

In addition, we showed that Micro:bit has huge potential for real-world applications. This includes the lightweight, wearable, Micro:bit-based electrocardiogram from our Bangalore-based volunteers, employed by tech giant ARM.

A large team from Element14 were on hand to take orders and direct people to the Foundation’s newly appointed Indian resellers. http://microbit.org/resellers/

The foundation are rightly excited about bringing the Micro:bit to India and I expect we shall be seeing some great innovations using the BBC Micro:bit in the near future.

About the author

Kavita is COO of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation. She has worked as a coder, software designer and technology strategist for organisations as diverse as London 2012, Channel 4 Television and ICL Fijitsu. She recently exited her startup What’sMySize and published her first management book http://bit.ly/29bw9j7 . Although she has won a BAFTA she isn’t a Bollywood star, yet!

www.kavitakapoor.org

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