Coding needed for innovation: Nadella
“Coding is like poetry, a compact expression that can be the most liberating. Everyone should learn coding irrespective of whether they are studying computer science, history or literature. It is a core skill and a malleable, changeable resource for the future,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer, Microsoft, at the Young Innovators Summit in Delhi where he was in conversation with Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India.
Last two days in Mumbai and Bengaluru, Nadella talked business and technology with Indian industry, entrepreneurs and developers. In Delhi, Nadella spoke about the role that technology will play in transforming the education ecosystem over the next decade, outlining the opportunity students have to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
The showstopper at the event were the young kids who showcased their technology-powered innovative apps, built to address societal issues like health pollution and organ donation.
Impressed with their presentation, Nadella said, “I am inspired to go back to middle school. While earlier, my generation used to learn about technology, today the kids are using technology to learn and build. I am so impressed by their quality of ideas, the scope of ambition and most importantly, empathy towards the people and issues around them. That is how societies and cultures move forward and that is something we value at Microsoft.”
For instance, Ishlok Vashistha, a student at a school in the national capital, is fighting air pollution using artificial intelligence (AI). He has designed Caeli, a smart anti-pollution face mask and portable nebuliser to help those with breathing ailments like asthma and chronic respiratory diseases that are on the rise in Delhi, given its poor air quality.
Another young student, Pratik Mohapatra, spoke about the organ donation app that he has built using machine learning algorithms.
The app matches organ donors with recipients, providing real time updates to people in need of a transplant. A coding enthusiast, Mohapatra has been developing apps since he was 14 years old and is all set to join Microsoft as an employee later this year. Nadella emphasized on the balance between consumption and creation of technology. “It is always an issue we have at Microsoft, whether you are a Power point first person or a Word first person, but both the story and the writing are important.”
He also spoke about games like Minecraft that have the ability to attract young middle school girls to STEM. Nadella was referring to 13-year-old Namya Joshi, who has been helping teachers of her school convert their class lessons into interactive Minecraft sessions. “Minecraft is a great platform. If a child does not like reading books, for example, you can make them in Minecraft and get the child interested,” the student from Ludhiana said matter-of-factly. Minecraft is like a pedagogical tool and can be used to learn coding, create lessons for others but the real currency is in striking the balance between consuming it like a game and using it to build and create something, added Nadella.
The session concluded with a rapid fire round where Maheshwari threw some googlies at Nadella which he replied to very smartly. Nadella’s favourite subject in school was history and if he had one superpower, then it would be to read all the books he had bought but not had the time to read.