At the launch of the ‘Make it Digital’ initiative held in London the director-general of the BBC Tony Hall introduced the prototype Micro Bit development board and explained why they are planning to give away around 1 million of them to 11-year-olds throughout the UK this September. The UK is facing a significant IT skills shortage, with 1.4 million "digital professionals" estimated to be needed over the next five years. They are teaming up with Microsoft, BT, Google, Code Club, TeenTech and Young Rewired State to address the shortfall and this initiative is part of a wider push to increase skills among young people and help to fill the digital skills gap.
Details of the Micro Bit are sketchy but when it launches in September it will be compatible with the coding languages Touch Develop, Python and C++. The device is small enough to be wearable and is powered by a coin cell. It features a matrix of LEDs and some pushbuttons which can be used to make basic games.
The final version will have a Bluetooth link enabling it to be hooked up to other devices such as a Raspberry Pi. The BBC does not see Micro Bit as a rival to similar computing devices such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Galileo, but rather hopes it will act as a "springboard" to these more complex machines. The BBC is also planning a season of coding-based programmes and activities. This looks as though it may be an interesting development, never mind the kids, I want one!