I popped along to Young Rewired State 2010 late Friday afternoon. For those oblivious to its work, it’s basically an initiative designed to get youngsters engaged with government via geekery. Fifteen to 18-year-olds are invited to work on an initiative of their choosing, helped by a mentor, to create some sort of application that might be of use using government data.
It’s an admirable initiative. Apathy with government in general is low right now, and anything that can boost that, particularly among youngsters, has to be a good thing.
Friday was the culmination of a week’s work, with youngsters from regions across the UK—Norwich, Manchester, Bristol, Reading to name but a few—descended upon London’s Great Portland Street to present their ideas and applications.
Rarely has so much geekery been seen in one place. I tried to fit in to some limited degree, sporting my XKCD t-shirt, but was outdone on so many levels—the most predictable for such an event being the 127.0.0.1 t-shirt of Harry Rickards. Laptops abounded (both Apple-branded and otherwise), dongles, smartphones even the odd iPad. Young geeks were still polishing their applications (not a euphemism) while their peers were up on stage presenting theirs to the audience. Above all, an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and passion filled the room.
It was refreshing. The news is filled with stories about “the youth of today”, and while admittedly these kids were in the main privileged (it’s not your average kid that gets to go to London to present from their own laptop), the passion was a joy to behold.
And some of the ideas were fabulous. From Steve Cox’s neat little postcode comparison tool to Issy Long’s wondrously designed site for displaying the energy efficiency of government departments. I hope she won’t mind me saying so, but Issy—the first girl to the stage—was nervous as hell, but it seemed that her passion for the subject matter surpassed the nerves, and the presentation was fabulous.
There were applications to find your local recycling plant based on the specific type of item you’re looking to recycle and those that suggested which GCSEs to take based on their “passability”.
I had to leave before the culmination, but the winning entry was a great idea that allowed people to find books of interest in libraries, linking in with social media to allow people to tag books and their location and for others to find those very same books. A mechanism, perhaps, to rejuvenate the local library.
But the applications were not the winners at #YRS2010. The kids who built them were. Their passion—for their device, their data, their OS of choice, their language of choice, their idea, their mentor, their application—was palpable. And to think that these kids will be the generation of tomorrow was both heartening and frightening. Heartening, for who better to drive forward the digital economy? Frightening, because these people will be competing with me in the jobs marketplace before too long.
Thanks must go to Emma for the orchestration, Hadley for the wondrous personal drinks service and Paul for diving around the floor looking like a tit in creating an awesome flickr set. Until #YRS2011.