As part of a new program called “Make it Digital,” the BBC today announced a partnership with 25 companies to develop a tiny computer that it wants to distribute to 1 million kids in the United Kingdom.

Working with companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, the BBC will develop what it is calling a “Micro Bit” coding device, the simplest of computers that it will then distribute to every child ages 11-12 in the U.K. The goal is to teach kids some basic coding skills and then encourage them to step up to more advanced programmable hardware such as Arduino, Kano, and Raspberry Pi.

“This is exactly what the BBC is all about — bringing the industry together on an unprecedented scale and making a difference to millions,” said Tony Hall, BBC’s director-general, in a statement. “Only the BBC can bring partners together to attempt something this ambitious, this important to Britain’s future on the world stage.”

The BBC created a similar gadget in the early 1980s called the “BBC Micro.” The new gadget is still being developed, but the BBC hopes to have it ready by the fall.

The Micro Bit is just one part of the broader Make it Digital program, which seeks to address what the BBC called the U.K.’s “significant skills shortage.” The broadcaster says the country needs 1.4 million digital professionals within five years and that current educational systems are not producing people with the right skills fast enough.

So, the BBC will also be offering a training program in Birmingham to teach 5,000 kids digital skills. And it will be producing programming across TV, radio, and online to educate and inspire kids to learn programming skills.


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