SAN FRANCISCO -- A new nonprofit is launching a campaign to encourage American kids to code.
Code.org has tapped some of the technology industry's leading luminaries –- Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and Square's Jack Dorsey and Microsoft's Bill Gates –- to lead the charge in a new video promoting the cool of coding.
Code.org is working to make computer science classes available in more schools and create "the wizards of tomorrow." It was started by Hadi and Ali Partovi, technology entrepreneurs and startup investor and advisors.
It's the beginning of an ambitious attempt to program new public policy. Silicon Valley is undertaking a more concerted political campaign than ever before to address the escalating demand for engineers at Silicon Valley companies as Congress weighs immigration reform.
Next week Silicon Valley plans to make its case on Capitol Hill to bring more high-skilled foreign workers to the U.S. in a hearing before friendly lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. Silicon Valley executives and entrepreneurs have been stepping up their longstanding efforts to lobby lawmakers and the White House to provide more visas for foreign-born workers with degrees in math and science.
The issue is hotly contested. Many object to the contention that tech companies can't find qualified workers in the U.S.
The new video from Code.org tries to pump up the cool in coding –- and make it more accessible to young people. Engineers are already cooler than they used to be, thanks to major Hollywood blockbusters such as "The Social Network." The Partovis hired Leslie Chilcott, producer of "Waiting for Superman," to direct the video. They also recruited the Miami Heat's Chris Bosh to appear in the video. Bosh took programming classes as a student. Also making cameos: Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am, a friend of the tech industry.
"Here we are, 2013, we all depend on technology to communicate, to bank, and none of us know how to read and write code," Will.i.am says in the video. "It's important for these kids, right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code."
But apprehension over how challenging it is to learn how to code remains. The tech stars in the video explain it's really not hard as it sounds.
"It starts out being very intimidating but you kind of get the hang of it over time," Drew Houston, chief executive and co-founder of Dropbox, says.