"Cyber Girls’ Power” comes to Galway - Ireland’s premier Digital City

Mercy Secondary School students with Ina O'Murchu at 'Women in Technology' event at DERI NUIG
The hosting of  a major pioneering initiative taking place at NUI Galway on May 17th-18th aims to encourage increased learning of computer coding amongst the local female population. Entitled ‘Rails Girls Galway’, the May event is part of a worldwide movement that aims to bridge the gender divide in technology and teach women how to code. The free weekend workshop will let females of all ages in on the exciting world of building web applications and software services. It will be held on Friday and Saturday May 17th-18th at the NUI Galway’s Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) located in the Dangan IDA/NUIG Business Park.

Coders Needed to Make the much vaunted Knowledge Society a reality 
“Ireland needs computer programmers of both sexes to help lay the foundations of the ‘Knowledge Economy’ and to create the jobs for a sustainable future,” says Myriam Leggieri, DERI researcher and one of the chief organisers. “But there is in particular a serious shortage of female IT developers in Ireland and across the world as well as in the professions of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) professions generally. Events such as 'Rails Girls' directly address this issue and empower girls to take the first step in learning these in-demand skills and acquiring the tools to conquer one of the last great frontiers of science, namely the World Wide Web.”

Alanna from 091Labs
The organisers comprise mainly young female IT researchers involved in local third level colleges, businesses, schools and volunteer digital makers’ clubs such as Coderdojo and 091Labs. Though primarily aimed towards local female students particularly in post primary schools and third level colleges, nevertheless there will be attendees arriving from across Ireland and Britain. The weekend event is free, is open to all enthusiastic girls and women, and is suitable for absolute beginners to computer coding. No prior knowledge of programming is required.

This event is part of a radical technology learning transformation of the city.

Huge Interest in Learning to Code amongst Galway's Youth
Every Saturday morning at NUI Galway and other locations in Athenry and Kinvara, hundreds of enthusiastic children and teenagers create their very own games, digital stories and web projects mentored by the young volunteer mentors of Coderdojo. 
Coderdojo Class in DERI on Saturday mornings
Youth-run clubs such as 091 Labs are also providing informal after-school digital maker’s environments. Thanks to the combined efforts of volunteer tutors from Hewlett Packard, Avaya, GMIT, Medtronic, SAP and DERI working under the guidance of the Galway Education Centre supported by the work of the Galway Science and Technology Forum and Junior Achievement, approximately two thousand pupils and students in over 50 primary and post-primary schools across counties Mayo and Galway are currently being educated in computer programming.  
Transition Year students Davitt College Castlebar learning to code with Brendan Smith DERI
 Recognition of the importance of these developments is shown by the recent inaugural ‘John Cunningham Memorial Coderdojo Awards’ granted to young coders for their outstanding contributions to computer programming; the Boston Scientific ‘Coding the Big Bang’ awards;  and ITAG’s  new ‘IT in the Community Award’ that was won by Coderdojo Galway city.

Birth of Ireland's First Generation of Coders
The end result is that finally, five decades after the tentative introduction of computing into Irish schools, we are experiencing the first generation of children that can code, that are truly ‘digital creators’ rather than just passive ‘digital users’.

Retro Gaming event Computer Museum, DERI

Galway: Ireland's primary Science City
These developments are part of an even bigger picture of progressive change where the city can truly claim to be Ireland's oldest Digital City and probably its premier City of Science having in the process the potential to become the Silicon Valley of Ireland. See my article on this subject by clicking here 

Location for leading International & National Science Research & Science Education centres.
Galway is now the location for the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland (based at DERI NUIG), the national Marine Institute, the National Aquarium (Galway Atlantaquaria), Ireland's longest (2 weeks) annual Science and Technology Festival and the world's largest semantic web research institute (DERI). It was to Galway rather than to Dublin or to Cork that CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, sent their renowned interactive exhibition last September. It was hugely sucessfull and was visited by 12,000 post-primary school students from across the island.
Interestingly the DERI-based  computer museum hosts an exhibit dedicated to women (hidden histories) that were pioneers in communications and computer technologies but are largely unknown by the general public.
Retro Gaming event Computer Museum, DERI

Thatcher: A Destroyer of Communities

I very rarely speak ill of the recently departed. But I have little affection for Margaret Thatcher who died today.

When she became Prime Minister in 1978, she used the words of St. Francis to define the tenets of her new government, “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope."

However she practiced the complete opposite and brought division, suffering, unemployment and poverty to so many communities across Britain and Ireland. Her political philosophy of individualism, light touch business regulation and free markets, was anathema to me and as a young radical in the early 1980s, I took part in many protests against her policies including that of the H-Block prisoners. 

Her government operated a dirty war in Northern Ireland and controlled Loyalist death squads that killed nationalist civilians. When IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected MP with a bigger mandate than she ever achieved, she had the law changed to stop prisoners from participating in parliamentary elections. She supported right-wing anti-democratic terror regimes in countries such as Pinochet's Chile, Saudi Arabia and apartheid South Africa.
Thatcher with Pinochet
She was the chief ally of a United States that openly funded military puppet regimes in Central and South America that launched vicious wars of oppression against their own peoples.

US President Ronald Reagan and Thatcher were united in building a new expensive generation of nuclear missiles (Cruise & Pershings) that were to be placed on British and European soil. This decision spawned an international peace movement that included the huge female peace camp outside the RAF base at Greenham Common Berkshire where these weapons were to be sited.
Thatcher used all the forces of the state to destroy traditional mining communities in England. 

She took away local government in London when she abolished Greater London Council (GLC) then led by Ken LivingstonThatcher privatised key sectors of the economy to the detriment of the British people, oversaw the loss of many of nation's manufacturing industries and the growth of the financial services. Britain no longer had an international image of being a country that made and exported things. Instead London became instead an international centre for banks and financial houses which spawned a generation of young bankers and stock traders who arrogantly portrayed themselves with a 'Greed is Good' ethic. The peoples of Northern England particularly suffered immensely under her rule as the large manfactured industries closed down and as the new financial services gravitated towards the south. 
The Poll Tax left to high levels of civil unrest.
She left Britain a deeply divided unequal society. 

"Nobody would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only good intentions. He had money as well." (Thatcher 1980)
Thatcher with Rupert Murdoch
She assisted the news corporations to undermine the media trade unions and to monopolise ownership of a press that became a mouthpiece for big business.

A quote from an interview that she gave in 1987, best summaries her life’s work, “there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families".  Such a philosophy has little time for the weak and community and only promotes greed, selfishness and egotism.