Is the UK throwing away its IT heritage? Google’s boss seems to think so

30th August 2011

As the International Business Times reports, he said: "Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage".

He pointed out that Britain had once led the world in computing, but no longer, and suggested the UK would be unlikely to see a children's author and mathematician such as Lewis Carroll, who could combine art and science, in this day and age because the world's of the arts and sciences were too divided here.

Some in the IT industry agree with Schmidt. Here on IT Pro, Tom Brewster writes:

"The number of A-level students fell for the eighth year in a row in 2011. This year, 4,002 students took the computing A Level – only 0.5 per cent of the overall student population. GSCE students taking IT declined from 61,000 to 47,000 between 2010 and 2011 – a rapid decline indeed. There's no doubt this country's educational infrastructure has already failed to produce the next big thing in the digital world. Where's our Mark Zuckerburg? Where's our Bill Gates?"

But teacher and writer Ewan McIntosh, writing on Edu.blogs, points out that computer science teaching may be better in Scotland and that was of course the part of the UK where Schmidt was speaking.

McIntosh writes: "It's why my daughter learns input-process-output at nursery school (kindergarten) through computer programmes and robots. It's why the literary structure and coding expertise needed to create a computer game is taught in more and more primary (elementary) schools."

"It's the reason that the very "learn how to use, not how to make it" approach to software has been questioned for the last eight years or more in Scottish computer science circles, and moves are made to reinstate the importance of programming at secondary (high school) level."

The speech was also an offer of partnership to the British TV execs present with Schmidt saying that Google TV would launch in the UK in 2012.

ZD Net is not impressed however with Google's knowledge of television.

Larry Dignan writes: "This PC as TV blunder has been made by countless technology companies. Microsoft tried it years ago with Web TV. A long line of companies followed. Apple tried the same thing to some extent, but wrapped it in an iTunes wrapper.

"Now Apple has a different version of Apple TV, but the story is the same. These tech guys just don't get that all we want to do is sit on our butts and watch TV. At least Apple's Steve Jobs got that TV is a wee bit different and a potential rat hole. Schmidt is still trying to force interactive TV and PC-like capability to consumers."

The Guardian's technology writer Dan Sabbagh is similarly unconvinced.

He writes: "Those who may have hoped Schmidt was going to invest Google's rapidly accrued billions in content, a global YouTube channel to rival the BBC and Sky, were disappointed."

"The excuse offered was that if the company made a creative contribution all Google would do is "produce a lot of bad sci-fi", when in truth he should say that spending money on content is expensive and unnecessary."

"As it is, Google represents the apotheosis of what happened when advertising was decoupled from content. Profits for search, chaos everywhere else. Nobody should assume that Google's emergence is anything other than profoundly disruptive for advertiser-funded media."

Motley Fool gives its verdict quoting a Ramones song and suggesting that Google wants the airwaves.

"By all accounts, Schmidt allayed few concerns with his speech. British TV execs who've seen CBS, Comcast's NBC subsidiary, and Disney's ABC give Google TV the cold shoulder (and block its access to their websites) are just as worried that what Google really wants is to expand its 85% share of search advertising into similar dominance over TV ad spending in Europe. They're not thrilled with the idea," it writes.

Marketing Week gave another take on the speech focusing on Schmidt's appeal to legislators not to overreact against companies sharing data.

It quotes Schmidt saying. "To be clear, I'm not suggesting a completely laissez-faire approach is appropriate… but when legislators try to figure out how to minimise the harm of online content, technology solutions rather than laws should be their first thought."

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