Getting into Digital

22nd August 2017

Natalie Wood

I can’t have been the only child with a passion for Manic Miner. My enthusiasm for games led me to carefully gather up my car washing money to buy the cheapest computer available – the Spectrum – and teach myself to code. At that level, coding seemed accessible; the games were simple, so why couldn’t I make them too?

That was where my career took root, but as digital technology has developed so far beyond Manic Miner in a relatively short space of time, it has become significantly harder for young people to recognise technology as accessible from a creative perspective. They struggle to see the link between their own skills and the games they play or the Smartphone they use daily, however much they want to break into that industry.

That said, everyone starts somewhere and help can be transformative. This is the belief that drives the impressive work of the Prince’s Trust, a national charity that provides learning opportunities for young people in need of support. Nominet is proud to fund the charity and we get involved in outreach activities when and where we can.

One such opportunity presented itself in August when Nominet hosted a group of young people at our Oxford office. We introduced them to the R&D team and outlined three projects that we have worked on in the past few years to apply technology to real world problems. ‘So what?’ is the question that drives us on. We have the internet, but so what? What can we do to use this resource to meet the issues we face as societies and nations?

We answer this question each day we come to work, using our skills to underpin projects like TVWS Arran. An isolated, remote Scottish isle with limited internet connectivity due to its topography, Arran has become our pilot project for demonstrating how we can use vacant TV white spaces to connect homes and businesses that struggle to use traditional internet connections.

We have also used our expertise to monitor the rivers and streams around Oxford in association with the Flood Network to help spread information and encourage local people to react to rising water, keeping themselves safe.

Our third project outlined on the day was the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, for which I sit on the board. Nominet brings expertise to support the focus on introducing young people to coding via the small micro:bit computers, opening up more possibilities as they come of age in a digital world.

The assignment from the day spent at Nominet was for the young people involved to write a blog post on what interested them most and why, which were sent to me for judging.

The most fulfilling aspect of reading these pieces of work was recognising how young people can be changed through learning and inspired at the possibilities their skills could achieve if they work hard. They may not have Manic Miner to inspire them, but programmes that bring the next generation into the workplace could transform their futures and encourage them to follow their dreams into the digital industry.

The overall winner was Nasma Aljizawi, with her article ‘Your city is getting smarter’ inspiring me with how succinctly she grasped the idea that “the cost for implanting the different applications of Smart Cities projects is much less than the cost of a crisis”. Let’s hope that people like Nasma, with her long-term view, are making the decisions as we move into a brighter, connected future.

Nasma’s blog was written as part of the EOB Esports Academy programme, in association with the Prince’s Trust.