BBC to give 1m Micro Bit computers to UK secondary schools

Giveaway part of ‘Make it Digital’ plan which aims to improve coding and programming skills

The BBC announced on Thursday it would provide one million ‘Micro Bit’ programmable devices to pupils starting year 7 in August and September. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The BBC announced on Thursday it would provide one million ‘Micro Bit’ programmable devices to pupils starting year 7 in August and September. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

The BBC will give away ‘Micro Bit’ computers to every child starting secondary school in the UK this year as part of a drive to improve technology skills.

The broadcaster announced on Thursday it would provide one million ‘Micro Bit’ programmable devices to pupils starting year 7 in August and September.

The giveaway is part of the BBC’s ‘Make it Digital’ drive, which aims to familiarise a new generation with coding, programming and digital technology.

The scheme also includes the creation of up to 5,000 digital apprenticeships for young unemployed people and a season of BBC programmes and online activity involving some of the corporation’s best known brands, including Doctor Who, EastEnders and Radio 1.

The BBC is hoping to emulate the success in the 1980s of a similar programme that encouraged the take-up of the first desktop computers in schools.

According to research by Parthenon Analysis, the UK is facing a skills shortage, with 1.4 million people with digital skills needed in the next five years.

“This is exactly what the BBC is all about — bringing the industry together on an unprecedented scale and making a difference to millions. Just as we did with the BBC Micro in the 1980s, we want to inspire the digital visionaries of the future,” said Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC.

Some have suggested the BBC should become like Netflix and fund itself through viewer subscriptions. If you were in charge, what TV channels and radio stations would you offer?

The BBC Micro, released in 1981, courted controversy at the time. The corporation teamed up with Cambridge-based Acorn Computers to build the machine. This upset British entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair who was just getting ready to launch a rival product - the ZX Spectrum.

The BBC said the Micro Bit, which is still in development, would be a “small, wearable device with an LED display that children can programme in a number of ways”.

As an entry-level coding device it is similar to the Raspberry Pi, which it will be able to link to via Bluetooth. However, the BBC said its Micro Bit was designed as a “springboard” to more complex programmable minicomputers already on the market.

The BBC has teamed up with almost 50 partners in the UK, including chipmaker Arm, Barclays, BT, Google and Samsung.

As part of the scheme, the corporation will also air a drama based on the highly successful Grand Theft Auto computer game and a documentary about Bletchley Park, home of the Britain’s top secret code-breaking unit in the second world war led by Alan Turing, the pioneer of computer science.

Financial Times