CODING A BETTER WORLD
by 42 Heilbronn
2020, it’s safe to say, will not be remembered well. The global challenges we face now and in the future have shown themselves in full force. Covid19 has dramatically changed our lives and exposed social inequalities once again. The consequences will stay with us for a long time to come.
Looking beyond 2020, the effects of climate change are far greater and more complex, and point to a bleak future. It is understandable that frustration and hopelessness are spreading in light of issues that remain unsolved. However, there are answers and solutions waiting to be tapped into - and the tech industry and the people behind it can help find them.
A SMALL DIFFERENCE
The steps toward a better future are not always obvious. The Dutch developer Danny van Kooten, who is responsible for the plugin 'Mailchimp for WordPress', has recently revised and streamlined its code - by 20 kilobytes. What seems like a small thing, has far-reaching consequences: The Plugin is currently installed on more than two million websites. The amount of CO2 saved by this change equals several flights from Amsterdam to New York and back (LINK).
The anecdote shows the importance of sustainable programming. The web and its applications consume huge amounts of energy. So, it is worthwhile to keep the code lean and do our part to reduce the CO2 levels by efficient programming. This requires skilled programmers* who can sift through the code for unnecessary ballast and develop programs with code efficiency in mind.
But coding can do even more to find answers to the most pressing questions of our time. And there are many people who contribute their skills and time to search for them. They connect at hackathons and write software that solves concrete problems or, through better data processing, makes it possible to discover deeper-rooted problems. It is not only important how well something is programmed. It's also about what it is programmed for.
One such effort is the Climathon, where people from all over the world come together regularly and work together on solutions to combat climate change (LINK).
The coders have proven before that they can add real value to the fight against climate change and come up with practical solutions in a short time. At a similar event in Sweden, the developers were looking for solutions to reduce the impact of plastic, for example through new ways of separating waste or innovative product design. In February, the “Welthungerhilfe” used a hackathon to look for solutions for more modern fundraising and better ways to connect their employees globally (LINK).
The Guardian Project develops open source software and devices that enable secure communication where it could be potentially risky (LINK). The teams at the 42 network are doing their part too: Currently, a team of students in California is working on the development of an AI that will analyze, sort and facilitate access to all available scientific data on Covid-19 in order to help officials fight the pandemic (LINK).
Projects like these do not only help the planet and our fellow human beings. They also offer opportunities to work in highly diverse teams on a common goal and thus strengthen one's soft skills. It helps recognize that taking into account different realities, living conditions and perspectives always leads to better applications. Last but not least, team efforts with the greater good in mind sharpen the understanding of one's own responsibility and the consequences of one's own actions.
We often refer to the image of the butterfly whose wings can cause a tornado. Less grandiose and maybe more relatable, we can see every day how small details can make a big difference in our lives, even if it is just a line of code.