Limiting children's exposure to computers in schools is an "opportunity cost" not worth paying in terms of wasted ideas that "could change the world", said Google London's engineering director today.
Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum, Andrew Eland explained how, from Google's perspective, the falling number of entrants into university computer science courses is "quite frightening".
Since 2002, said Eland, applications for IT courses in UK further education have fallen by 23%, an "astonishing drop" which runs counter to the increasing accessibility and relevance of technology to young people.
Social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, coupled with the penetration of smartphones has, said Eland, helped IT "move from something that's related to boring, work-related areas to something directly in touch with the lives of children."
Eland identified computer science as "one of the only areas where you can build things that can change the world socially, economically, politically." And the raw material of that, he said, "is basic access to computers, and the enthusiasm to push that forward."
Eland made a plea to educators to make sure that "children are exposed to computers as much as is necessary, because the opportunity cost of not allowing these children to come up with ideas that could change the world is more frightening than anything else."
Eland made the comments as the government has confirmed that it is changing the way ICT is taught in schools.
The company says it currently has 450 software engineers in London, and wishes to hire the same number again in the next year and a half.