Why is the BBC launching Make it Digital?

This is a guest post from Jessica Cecil, project controller at the BBC. 


Last October, director-general Tony Hall said he wanted the BBC to embrace one big education project a year. In 2014 it is World War One. I’m delighted to announce that in 2015, the BBC’s new Make it Digital initiative will shine a light on the world of digital creativity and coding. And that is exactly what we are going to do. But because there’s so much to highlight we thought we’d start early, so at the start of the new school year for most, we are giving a taste of what we have planned.


The very first Make it Digital examples include our brand new Bitesize guides to support the new Computing curriculum that is being introduced in England. We’re also launching relevant Computing content for pupils studying the subject in curricula across the rest of the UK. Our content supports both primary and secondary school pupils as well as their teachers and parents – all under the Bitesize brand for the first time.


Alongside these BBC Learning projects we have some exciting children’s programmes coming out this Autumn that will help inspire our youngest audiences to discover the digital world and to take their journeys of digital discovery further. Dick & Dom’s Absolute Genius will become Appsolute Genius, Technobabble will look at the technology which will shape children’s lives, and Nina and the Neurons will go digital. You can find the full detail here.


Why are we doing this? This generation of coders and computing creatives are standing on the shoulders of giants. The UK is the birth place of computer science, and pioneers such as Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing. We have just celebrated 25 years of the World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and we are home to game-changing games makers and entrepreneurs like Michael Acton Smith from Mind Candy and Ian Livingstone.


And the BBC has history too: back in the 80’s we made a commitment to inspire a generation to get passionate about computing. We broadcast hundreds of hours of TV, created a new coding language, and gave millions their first taste of computing with the BBC Micro.  It’s firmly rooted in our public service commitments and is exactly what the BBC should be doing. And in 2015 we want to capture the spirit of what we did with the BBC Micro, but this time for the digital age.


The potential for this country’s future is as rich as our past, but there are dangers. Martha Lane Fox estimates we are going to need a million more people working in the technology sector over the next ten years – but right now many of our youngsters are lacking the digital skills they need.


A wealth of fantastic organisations are already inspiring the next generation. Organisations like Code Club, Free:formers, Apps for Good, Coderdojo, Technology Will Save Us and Code Academy; enablers like Nesta, Nominet Trust, the Mozilla Foundation, the iDEA initiative, and the Make Things Do Stuff movement; big companies like BT, Microsoft, Google, Intel and Samsung are all running wonderful initiatives. However, it’s a very different landscape to the one we had in back in the eighties when we launched the BBC Micro. So we’ve been talking to people across the digital and educational communities to help us define what the BBC can usefully do here, and help us answer these questions:

·         What can the BBC do in 2015 which no other organisation can deliver?

·         What are the ways in which we can partner most effectively?


Partnerships are the key to our approach. By working in partnership with others we want to celebrate the rich heritage of this country, but we want to play our part in inspiring a new generation to get active with computing. And that has never been more important – it helps all of us be active shapers of our world, rather than passive consumers.


Our conversations have highlighted that the BBC should work with the industry, raising awareness and inspiring people to get interested in coding and digital technology.


In early 2015 we will be able to share in-depth details of what is planned and there will be something for everyone. We want to show audiences how Britain has helped shape the digital world and why digital skills matter.


We will harness the power of our biggest shows – we have so many much-loved programmes and characters that can play a role introducing people to coding and digital technology. There will be new commissions, too, including dramas and documentaries. We want to do what we do best – tell stories that inspire and move people.


We will celebrate the UK’s digital heritage, raise awareness, and help some people to take their first steps into the world of digital.


All our activity will link to online resources that will help our audiences play, learn and share, with a digital hub bringing all of this activity together. There will be off-air activity too, particularly focused on children and young people. We want to help people to find the fantastic resources which already exist, including learning opportunities across the UK and online. And in some cases, the very best of what they create will find its way back on to the BBC.


There’s much, much more to come in the months ahead – including what we hope will be some life changing opportunities for school leavers so what we’re announcing today is just the start.


With our partners we want to have a lasting impact and ensure we work with them to make a difference.


I hope this gives a flavour of how important this project is to us at the BBC and explains how we, and the industry, believe we can inspire people. I was asked to lead this project and pull it together so we, the BBC, can bring all of what we have to help highlight what is the future, to and inspire all our audiences to create the future.


Please do let us know what you think. We will update you as we build up to 2015 when we will have much more to share.