Hi my name is Roger, I started Polycademy & Code for Australia. Let me tell you a short story:
In our modern day era, some people have claimed that learning to code is just as important as learning to read or write. With the pervasiveness of digital technologies, if it isn't equivalent, it's damn near close.
According to the McKinsey Institute, the internet accounted for 21% of GDP growth among developed countries. Among G20 economies the internet will bloom to $4.2 trillion US dollars. But what does all these statistics mean to the average person?
For me at Polycademy, it means two things: Jobs and Empowerment.
Coders and programmers are in high demand nowadays. Startups and big companies participate in a talent war for good developers. Traditional universities just don't teach the practical side of things. In the programming world, paper certificates are meaningless, it's the code and projects that you have brought to life that matters.
But the really important factor is not jobs, it is empowerment. In closing the digital divide, more people become content creators rather than just content consumers. Learning to code is about empowering people to allow them to unleash their creativity in the digital era. No other skill allows you to reach and be heard from hundreds, thousands, if not millions of people in such a short time. Coding gives aspiring entrepreneurs an ability to turn their ideas into reality.
Polycademy was setup to help entrepreneurs and reskilling people achieve their dreams. It isn't an online based codecademy, and it isn't your standard brick and mortar school. Polycademy will take small groups of highly committed individuals from different fields and stages of life and turn them into web developers. Not by teaching computer science, nor handing out paper based qualifications, but by helping them bit by bit, week by week flesh out their idea into reality. Beginners and noobs are welcome! Many people are turned off by certain segments of the programming elite's snobbery. But there won't be any snobbery in Polycademy, everybody will be a world class beginner. Along the way our students will learn teamwork in high octane epic 11/21 week deadline environment. Entrepreneurial skills are a must, so students will get embedded with the entrepreneurial community in Canberra.
Why Canberra some would ask? Well here's where it gets really interesting and awesome. Early this year, I found out this awesome non-profit organisation in America called "Code for America". They call themselves the peace corp for geeks. For non-US people, that means they get professional programmers to volunteer their time to build applications that solve civic or community issues. This has met widespread success, with many city governments paying almost $160,000 for Code for America's services. But wait I just said non-profit and "volunteering"! Where's all that money going? Well it's going to the programmers. Volunteering isn't cheap, and Code for America has stocked the program will all sorts of activities and guests lectures from the influential in the technology sector. It's simply a great place to get started in life, or to reach another tipping point in life for many of their developer fellows. I was inspired by them, and while I was inspired I realised there was a synergy here between a school that intensively teaches web application development, and development for the public good.
That's when I came up with Code for Australia. Now Code for Australia will be a social enterprise program at Polycademy. The url is http://codeforaustralia.com.au/ However it hasn't been setup yet, but definitely bookmark it. Code for Australia will be slightly different from Code for America. Instead of getting professional developers to volunteer their time, Code for Australia will be sponsorship based. Students who get accepted into the program get free or seriously discounted tuition, but they have to develop an application dealing with open government or community issues. These applications can range from disaster alert and prevention software and environmental geo-mapping to data visualisation of where your tax is going. A great example is Google's global arms imports/exports visualisation. (Only works on advanced browsers!) These kinds of projects allow Government to engage its citizens in a more accessible way, and allow citizens to interact with the Government in a more dynamic way. In the digital era, open government is the cornerstone of democracy. In Australia, we'll be using the Open Gov Data set provided by http://data.gov.au/.
2013 is when the journey begins for Polycademy and Code for Australia. Our first classes are in early February, and I have been negotiating with open government officials, entrepreneurs and investors. Everybody I've talked to has been supportive of the idea. Code for Australia cannot start without Polycademy, but without Polycademy there can be no Code for Australia. So the first step is to get Polycademy running. If you think you have an idea for an application that will change the world, then signup to the courses. For early applications there's a $1000 discount! Polycademy will be hiring 2 extra teachers before the start of class specialising in design and development, I personally don't have all the answers to the world of web development. Code for Australia will require some time before it is fully ready to be launched, but if you're interested in helping, why not talk to your Government official and ask them about it?
The future of Polycademy and Code for Australia will be interesting. I want to focus on making Polycademy the premier destination for developing tech startups in Canberra and Australia. I want Code for Australia to take off in its own way, bringing the power of computer technology to help disaster zones and regions of poverty. No matter what, Polycademy will stay lean, practical and on top of emerging technologies.
About the mentors, these three people, Rory, Craig and Lachlan have given me quite awesome advice regarding this startup. They are experienced in different fields as you may have read from their bios at the home page.
Credit should be given where credit is due, although my inspiration of Polycademy came from similar startups in America (Dev Bootcamp, Starter League), the original formulation of the idea was independent. (Trust me!) The logo for Polycademy was designed from a designer in India at DesignCrowd, and the background for the hex icons came from a designer in the UK. Most of the icons used at the homepage came from the theNounProject.
A little bit about me: I am currently a student at the Australian National University who (should) be graduating by the end of 2012. I've been building websites/applications since I was 12 years old, and have dabbled in leadership activities for a while (President of AIESEC ANU 2012 - 2013). In university I study Bachelor of Arts (International Relations). Within this degree, I have broadened my study area as much as possible including economics, environmental science, complexity and military history. I also dabbled in piloting. I flew a Piper PA28 Warrior for 5 hours in Bankstown, Sydney. I also enjoy extreme sports like skydiving and geek sports like real time strategy games. I was originally from NZ, but have been in Australia for 5+ years. You can find me at Linkedin.
Check out Polycademy @ Facebook, Polycademy @ Twitter, Code for Australia @ Facebook, and Code for Australia @ Twitter.