But can we train millions of everyday people to become developers and designers? Given where we are today, it’s understandable that many think this goal is just wishful thinking.

It’s not for lack of trying:

  • Every day around the globe, people who are smart, dedicated, and passionate – and who usually operate on a shoestring – pour their heart and soul into making computer tech accessible in their community
  • Many people in the tech industry work hard to create tools and languages they hope will empower millions of people
  • Educators in academia and the tech industry have spent countless hours developing freely available online coding classes in order to reduce the barriers for everyday people to learn programming This impressive work has made a real difference, often opening up possibilities for new careers and new journeys of self-discovery for the individuals they’ve helped.

But go to communities facing hard times and ask people if they think coding will create a lot of opportunities that people in their community can count on. You won’t find many takers.

The problem we face is not that the people trying to democratize coding aren’t driven enough or passionate enough or smart enough. The problem is that they are hopelessly outmatched by the scale and scope of the challenge. If emerging tech is to provide real hope for communities that our society has left behind, we need a new approach.

Luckily, we don’t have to figure out a solution from scratch. This isn’t the first time our society has faced the need to bring about a massive transformation of the technical skills and knowledge of millions of people. The road to our future runs through our past.

Next: Lessons from Our Past: Cooperative Extension Services and Citizenship Schools
Last: The Threat And Opportunity
Up: Introduction