A Path to Tech Success for Young People Around the Globe

By Angel Diaz
Vice President, Cloud Technology & Architecture , IBM

Angel Diaz: selfie with IBMers
Angel Diaz: selfie with IBMers

When I was a young guy growing up on a farm in Puerto Rico, I was a neophyte when it came to computer science and mathematics.  I was so fortunate at an early age to be empowered by my mother to reach further. At 17, I left for college in America.

Back then, people growing up in less-developed places didn’t have much chance of succeeding in technology unless we left home and headed for major tech meccas such as Silicon Valley, New York and Boston.

But things are different today, thanks in part to cloud computing. This new approach to technology creates tremendous opportunities for young people everywhere to build services and mobile apps on ready-made cloud platforms–either as entrepreneurs or as employees of larger companies.

We’re showcasing this shift today at world finals of the ACM International Computer Programming Contest in Marrakech, Morocco. Experts from IBM are teaching nearly 400 students about the potential of cloud computing for developers and staging a hackathon, in collaboration with the government of Morocco, where the students will create cloud-based apps aimed at improving education in the region.

Today, mobility is the key and cloud computing enables software developers to deliver their apps to people anywhere and any time with a minimum of bother. A number of cloud-based development environments have emerged, among them IBM’s Bluemix.

We believe that it’s best for developers and users of technology alike if their cloud technologies are built on a foundation of open source software. Bluemix is built on Open Stack and Cloud Foundry. It enables developers to build, deploy and manage cloud services and mobile apps on public and private clouds.

Bluemix will provide the toolbox for our ICPC hackathon. We introduced the technology to students and young developers in Africa at the #Hack.Jozi Challenge in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month, and at a hackathon in Nairobi, Kenya, last year. I have been told that we got an enthusiastic response–including emails from participants saying the events changed their lives.

I don’t think they’re exaggerating. Cloud computing and platforms like Bluemix are truly transformational. Because of them, entrepreneurs and developers don’t have to buy their own server computers. They can build applications on top of existing cloud services offered by other companies. Using Bluemix and other offerings like it, they can choose from a wide variety of reusable software components—Bluemix has over 100 such tools and services—rather than having to build all the capabilities in their applications from scratch. Everything they want to do, they can do faster.

Speed is essential for entrepreneurs. With these new tools, they can get going quickly and inexpensively; they can experiment, get instant feedback and learn from their mistakes: and they can continuously improve their applications once they’re in the marketplace. All of this is true whether you’re in Manhattan or Marrakech.

Another critical factor: cloud computing and cloud-development platforms have the power to turn local businesses into global operations practically overnight. Entrepreneurs in Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa are no longer fenced in by geography. The whole world is their marketplace.

I was tremendously lucky as a young man from rural Puerto Rico to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, eventually get my PhD, and then move on to a great career at IBM. But, these days, a young person can get a solid technical education at many colleges and universities around the world, and they can start the next great technology or company that will improve our lives without leaving their home countries.

In Africa, where so many young entrepreneurs are socially conscious, this shift could help address some of the continent’s great challenges–including poverty, disease, educational inequality and political instability.

We’re entering a period of globalization of innovation and entrepreneurship that is fueled by cloud computing, and the whole world will be better for it.


Bonus video: IBM’s Marc-Arthur Pierre-Louis performs his song, Geek is Chic, at the ICPC finals.

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