Monday, October 2, 2017

Coding Knows No Boundaries


As parents toil over long work days, children often go unsupervised. The adult drama would often roll over into children’s lives as relationships soured, fights took place, employment statuses changed… As chaos emerged as a persistent theme in these children’s lives, it is unsurprising that plans are unheard of. In fact, many are pushed into rental housing due to “deteriorating family ties – divorce, abandonment or strained relationships” and stairwells lurking with drunks, drug abusers and loan sharks.

The challenge posed to us is then: How do we systematically, sustainably encourage these children to create with technology? How can we help them chart a better course forward, within constraints and given the particular challenges of their situation?


People lead intensely claustrophobic lives due to big family sizes and may eat as little as a meal, or none, through the day.

Such scarcity wields a powerful influence over behaviour. When resources are scarce, people are more predisposed to compete than to cooperate; when there is little social contact between neighbours, people are more predisposed to be aloof than to adopt prosocial behaviours.

That’s a phenomenon well-documented by psychologists: if the mind is focused on one thing, other abilities and skills—attention, self-control, and long-term planning—often suffer. Like a computer running multiple programs, Mullainathan and Shafir explain, our mental processors begin to slow down. We don’t lose any inherent capacities, just the ability to access the full complement ordinarily available for use.

But what’s most striking—and in some circles, controversial—about their work is not what they reveal about the effects of scarcity. It’s their assertion that scarcity affects anyone in its grip.

Their argument: qualities often considered part of someone’s basic character—impulsive behaviour, poor performance in school, poor financial decisions—may, in fact, be the products of a pervasive feeling of scarcity. And when that feeling is constant, as it is for people mired in poverty, it captures and compromises the mind. (Source:


In this context, it is hardly surprising that there is an underlying current of pervasive fear. Fear of betrayal, fear of trying, fear of being ridiculed or laughed at. While most children may have parents, teachers and other adults pushing them on, urging them to keep trying if not telling them that they are the centre of the world, kids growing up in disadvantaged families enjoy no such cushion. Lack of supervision often means that they have to learn to take care of themselves and younger siblings from a young age, all while trying to grasp academic work that can oftentimes feel far-removed from their daily experiences.

This fear holds people back, and they dare not tread on to newer grounds that may provide more fertile pastures for their talents. In practical terms, this means that our coding classes are not just about technicalities and the mechanics of making an app, but getting these children to believe in their abilities to create as well. And why might coding classes for children from disadvantaged families be necessary rather than a luxury you ask?

Why Coding?

Research from OECD “found that richer teenagers were more likely to use the internet to search for information or to read news rather than to chat or play video games.” Computing costs have never been cheaper and information has never been more accessible, the critical bottleneck when it comes to unleashing digital opportunities for growth and innovation has been the missing analogue foundation of education and awareness.

In an age of fermenting populist fury at digital disruptions and widening inequality, the way forward cannot be a retreat to tribal enclaves but to forge a more inclusive globalisation and to enhance access to opportunities – and coding is a critical pillar of that since the ability to communicate with machines is the new literacy that is richly rewarded in our Information Age.

Technology, or rather the lack of effective use of it, is a source of much inequality. Without proper guidance, kids fall prey to games and entertainment when they could be making their own games instead. Hence, learning to code holds the key to closing up the gap of the digital divide.

Code-a-Thon is a learning-intensive hackathon experience where beginners and experienced coders, designers and business people alike come together to develop app prototypes under the theme of Technopreneurship for Gender Equality in 2017.

This extended experience takes participants through a kick-off weekend, followed by a period of ongoing consultations/mentorship with local mentors until they finally submit their entries online for judging.

Our Lead Sponsors are the U.S. State Department under its Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

Why Take Part?

          Code for change!

          Build your portfolio and learn new transferable skills with industry mentors

          Receive feedback from esteemed judges

          Win prizes and/or media mention!

Who can take part?

Whether you are a complete newbie or a hacker, your entries will be judged holistically… We offer 2 separate judging tracks for you to compete in teams of 2-5:



Anyone from outside of these categories are more than welcomed to join EXCEPT that:

          You will not be eligible for certain sponsor prizes

          No team should have 50% or more of its members from outside of the track that they have chosen to participate in


When is it?

City                             #codeathon kick-off

Singapore                    18-19 March 2017

Hanoi                          22-23 July 2017

Ho Chi Minh               TBA

Jakarta                        TBA

Kuala Lumpur             12-13 August 2017

Bangkok                      TBA

Denpasar                     TBA

Brunei                         TBA

Yangon                       TBA

Penang                        25-26 November 2017

Suzhou                        TBA

Manila                         7- 8 October 2017

Hangzhou                    TBA

Nanjing                       TBA

Beijing                        TBA

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