One of a number of places I volunteer is Ladies Learning Code’s Victoria chapter (you can also find them on Facebook, Meetup, and Twitter). What we’re all about in the Victoria chapter is digital literacy for everyone.
To make sure we’re all on the same page, I’m defining digital literacy as the ability to find your way around and get things done on desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and to be able to find your way around on the internet in terms of being able to find and share a link, send and receive email, post and reply to posts on social media, search for the information you need, and recognize blatant scams.
Considering how many of our jobs involve computers, if only for a little word processing and email, it’s pretty clear why digital literacy is important. What might be less obvious is how important it is that everyone get the opportunity to learn a little bit of code, which is the more in-depth form of digital literacy.
There’s been plenty of debate over whether everyone should learn to code or if everyone should be taught to code in school, which frankly is pretty boring. Code is important for the exact same reason science is important: “Because the world is not magic.” Just like everyone deserves to know that the physical world is not magic, everyone deserves to know that the digital world is not magic either. Computers are not magic, code is not magic, software in general is not magic, and the internet is not magic (printers, on the other hand, are infernal machines that feed on human misery). When these things are all such important parts of our daily lives, it’s absolutely necessary that all of us have a basic understanding of how they work.
It’s not that everyone should be experts who are able to develop an entire app on their own, but to quote @alicemazzy: huge diff btwn not knowing how to use a hammer well and not knowing a hammer is a tool that exists that solves a certain class of problems. Everyone should be taught what kind of problems are solvable with code and what sort of problems are created with code. You don’t need to be an amazing developer to understand that analyzing a spreadsheet of registrant data to figure out which events had the most attendees is a problem you can solve with code and that spam is a problem someone else created for you using code. So is terrible software (Ashley Madison, I’m looking at you. Ethical issues aside, if you charge a premium for security your service should actually be secure).
The same way you deserve to know that if a diet or a deal sounds to good to be true it most certainly is, you deserve to know that a Nigerian prince is most certainly not in need of your help and that bankofmontreeal.com is not a site where you should enter your password. If you’ve gone to a single html/css workshop like the ones Ladies Learning Code offers, then you understand how easy it is to build a totally convincing looking website. It’s not magic, it’s just a bit of html and some tedious css pixel pushing.
If you’re going to spend any time on the internet, you need to and have the right to understand the basics of how it all actually works. If you don’t, then you’re stuck with the internet equivalent of hoping that salesguy down at the used car lot is honest. Do I really need to tell you that’s a bad place to be?