Applying the programming bootcamp model in ICT4D contexts seems like a no-brainer. Two notable projects are doing just that.
Programming bootcamps are quickly becoming a mainstay in alternative technology education in the United States, providing a fast, intense training experience in authoring code and placing graduates in junior developer roles on track for six figure salaries in the (very) near future. 9-12 weeks and $10k - $20k for a professional development opportunity with starting salaries rivaling top-tier MBA programs presents a fairly compelling value proposition, and most major cities in the US seem to have several bootcamp success stories spread through the blogosphere.
This is exactly the kind of trend we would have tried to capitalize on during my Americorps VISTA fellowship back in 2005. My year of service at the Chicago chapter of the Community Technology Centers’ Network involved capacity building for a network of community technology spaces providing innovative professional development opportunities for underprivileged communities, ranging from computer hardware refurbishing workshops for as part of an ex-convict rehabilitation program to teaching robotics to at-risk youth. Since the worldwide shortage of well-trained, ambitious programmers isn’t going away any time soon, programming bootcamps are an ideal community technology vehicle, offering a systemic solution to income inequality for participants.
I recently came across two programming bootcamps who are doing just this, in wildly different contexts.
Android Development In Iraq: The Re:Coded Project
The Recoded Project is Iraq’s first programming bootcamp, and is aimed specifically at refugee populations. They are located just outside a refugee camp in Kurdistan, north of Baghdad, where the influx of Syrian refugees and internally displaced populations has created an overwhelming demand for pathways for sustainable self-reliance. Their focus for the 2017 - 2018 cohort is Android development, based on demand from local employers, and their current cohort trains for seven months. They also provide English language training and soft skills development for graduates.
Edit: They’re hiring! If you’d like to coordinate operations for their sister bootcamp in Turkey, or can teach Android Dev, you may want to get in touch here: Careers at Re:Coded.
Creating Economic Opportunity in NYC: Code For Queens (C4Q)
The C4Q Project applies the programming bootcamp paradigm to a problem closer to home: economic justice in Queens. With an impressively diverse cohort (50% women, 50% underrepresented minorities, 50% immigrants, and 60% do not have college degrees), C4Q focuses specifically on recruiting from underprivileged communities within the NYC area and providing avenues to the middle class. They’re currently working on building a larger network of placement / recruiting partners for bootcamp graduates, and their numbers are impressive: average salaries go from $18,000 to $85,000+ for graduates of their program. Their curriculum covers both mobile and web development topics, and runs ten months.
Since I get one or two surprised looks when I mention US-based projects in a conversation on ICT4D, I’ll clarify here: there are “developing” neighborhoods, cities, and states across most first world nations. This is certainly true of the United States, where the economic recovery has been tightly restricted to urban, mobile, educated populations, while leaving much of rural America (95% of the country by geographic area) and urban minority populations (the entire south side of Chicago, for example) behind. ICT4D projects have as much of a contextual fit in Queens as they do in Calcutta.
I’m interested in applying similar models for economic development projects in other parts of the world. Countries such as Bangladesh and India (where I’m typing this) are seeing an influx of refugees as a result of Burma’s Rohingya genocide. Given the region’s constant hunger for IT professionals, would a bootcamp teaching English language and basic Wordpress development offer opportunities for placing refugees in local companies in IT hubs like Bangalore or Gurgaon, while making a compelling case that more countries should offer legal immigration options for refugees? I’ve scheduled a couple of conversations with the Global Director of a university here to explore bootcamp options in a little more detail, and see where they might fit into a South Asian context.