by Jonas Lim, Director, Solution Engineering (Asia), Salesforce
Based on data released by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), there will be more than 6,000 open programming positions and a need for around 30,000 technology specialists over the course of the next two years. This technology skills gap will surely affect Singapore’s vision to be a Smart Nation in the years to come. Today, programming is offered by 19 secondary schools as part of a new O Levels subject called Computing. There has also been an increase in demand for children’s coding classes.
Can we afford to wait for the rise of these coders to attend the workforce? Therein lies the need for the citizen coder. Self-taught and digitally native, the citizen coder is a symbol of 21st century success and a ready-made solution to a yawning skills gap.
If there is an increasing demand for coding skills, that is in part because there is an increasing demand for apps, especially those that bridge the technology skills gap, and provide an interface between customers and brands. As consumers become accustomed to social media and mobility, we demand a new way of interacting with brands – one that is personalised and involves the community. And apps fit the bill perfectly. According to global surveys, Singaporeans are both the second most addicted to the Internet and have the highest usage of smartphones. Furthermore, an increasing chunk of this time spent on smartphones is with apps where we get exposed to, interact with and purchase from brands. This surging demand for app development coupled with a shortage in app developers has given birth to the citizen coder.
Back in 2009, Gartner predicted that by 2014 at least 25 percent of new business applications would be built by what it called “citizen developers”. However, despite some positive signs, this optimistic forecast has yet to be met. The reason, according to Gartner, boils down to complexity in the tools these coders have had available in recent years.
What the citizen coder needs to be effective and productive is a “drag and drop” solution, a library of template-esque, pre-built and reusable components that really simplify app creation. By providing a platform on which component parts can be assembled quickly and easily – and where tiresome but essential build work comes pre-loaded – the citizen coder can concentrate on creative execution. They can concentrate on delivering apps that answer a particular need, apps that themselves promise ease and simplicity of use to the user – apps that enhance the experience of consumers and business users alike.
There are plenty of precedents for this kind of platform approach. For example, low cost editing software has democratised the production of broadcast quality video and audio, while GarageBand has done much the same thing for the production of music. And just as the graphical user interface popularised by Apple made the computer truly personal, I strongly believe the modern software platform will inevitably make code citizen friendly.
Businesses may also have the impression that they need skilled app developers in order to build internal apps or customer-facing apps. However, the idea of citizen coders means that employers will have the option of drawing people in from as many walks of life as possible. This increases the likelihood of finding people with the right communication, creativity and technical skills.
Free educational resources provided from a user-friendly platform, such as Salesforce’s Trailhead, to as many people as possible will persuade more candidates from different backgrounds to enter the industry. Trailhead is a Salesforce-led complimentary online training portal that through gamification, enables users to learn how to use Salesforce software. Those keen for a mid-career switch amidst the abundance of local job opportunities without the expense of a degree and the time needed to attain one, may find these easy online courses an attractive alternative.
Salesforce is a strong proponent for the ‘Low Code, No Code’ movement, and several of our solutions are based on creating an environment where non-technical skilled users can develop and modify business applications as seamlessly as possible. Getting as many people as possible from all walks of life into app development will end up creating a healthier and more diverse ecosystem. Let’s hail the march of the citizen coder, and give them all the support they need to reach their destination.
Jonas Lim is Director, Solution Engineering (Asia) at Salesforce. He has over 15 years of experience in the technology industry having worked in a variety of roles across management consulting organizations. This background has given Jonas firsthand experience of the limitations of deploying on-premise technologies and the benefits of innovation using cloud technologies. For the past three years, Jonas has been a cloud evangelist at Salesforce, sharing his experience and helping customers of all industries and sizes innovate using Salesforce.