Teaching coding to the poor can end inequality, says Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof has claimed education that includes coding is the only way to lift people out of poverty and prop-up the economies of countries with aging populations.

Speaking at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London today, Geldof said “There can’t just be three Rs anymore, there must be a fourth literacy” he said. “Yes reading, yes writing, yes arithmetic, but also coding.”

Bob Geldof

This is particularly relevant with regard to the changing, aging demographic of the European nations, which require an ever greater number of young migrants to sustain them.

“Germany needs a constant influx of immigrants to maintain its current economy. Britain’s already throwing up this hullabaloo about immigration … but we will need people coming here with the skills to deal with this new economy,” he said.

According to Geldof, in five years time the largest population of working-age people will be in Africa, and at least some of them are likely to migrate here to fill those holes.

Therefore, he said, it’s important both for us and for them to ensure they have the skills required to function in the modern, digital economy.

The internet is another consciousness

Geldof also said the internet was “the single greatest invention in the history of mankind” and it’s irrevocably changing “the way we behave, the way we function, the way society is and, therefore, the way we are”.

“What we’re building (with the internet) is this other consciousness. You must imagine the web as this synaptic membrane being wrapped around the world,” he said.

“We can tap into this other consciousness, which connects us all, all the time,” Geldof added.

Whereas those of us born in the early 80s and before think the internet and the technology it brings is “profoundly important and deeply concerning”, our children, he said, view it as being as every day as the wallpaper in their room.

“We should be (concerned), because it’s created a sort of hive society, where we’re touching out our little feelers all the time,” he said.

But, he said, while its potential dangers are vast, its potential benefits are beyond imagination, including for education.

Technology and education vs poverty and disease

During the same keynote, Geldof also announced Band Aid 30, which is intended to help fund the fight against Ebola.

“There is a different crisis now (to 30 years ago) in West Africa that may well affect us all,” Geldof said.

However, ultimately, the reason for it is the same, he said.

“What those people (were) dying of in Africa … in 1984 wasn’t a lack of food, it was the lack of the ability to buy food. They died because they were poor. What they’re dying of in West Africa today is poverty,” Geldof said.

He also described the disease as anathema to the modern, interconnected society brought about by the internet.

“The pity of this filthy little virus, is that the mother can’t comfort her child. The lover can’t cradle their partner in their last moments. Human beings become untouchable,” Geldof said.

“We live in a world where the very opposite of that (is true). The whole notion of the internet is that we’re in constant and immediate contact with each other all the time,” he said.

Containment of Ebola and access to proper medical treatment are, of course, key to solving the current crisis. However, Geldof said, only proper education, that covers not just the Three Rs but also coding, is the only way the “great inequality” between the developed and developing worlds can be adjusted, he said.

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