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Top Entrepreneur is Champion for Tech-Obsessed Kids

Article date: Mon, 14 May 2012 11:19 GMT

entrepreneur Lawrence Jones

Kids' obsession with technology should be celebrated not dismissed as a distraction to their social development, according to technology entrepreneur Lawrence Jones.

Speaking on Radio 4's You and Yours programme, Jones said that children who are fanatical about computers should be encouraged because their expertise will dictate the country's digital future.

"When I was out playing rugby as a kid, other kids were indoors dismantling computers and testing software. Without them the internet would not exist as it is today and the next generation of digital development wouldn't exist.

"Of course, we should promote balance in young people because you can have all the computer skills in the world but if you can't interact, you won't be able to develop great software or communicate effectively with your colleagues. But I don't think there is anything wrong with obsessing about something either. Da Vinci and Michelangelo obsessed over canvases and sculptures. The internet is the new canvas - it's a gateway to the new world."

Jones, who sold his entertainments business to Granada in 1997 before setting up internet hosting firm UKFast in 1999, told Radio 4 listeners that his firm's approach to recruitment created a well-rounded team of tech geeks.

"We look for skills you can't teach in a person. We actively seek great people who want to learn and develop; we don't look necessarily for the finished article. A lot of my top team members will have developed their programming skills and enhanced other skills because an interest in the internet has helped them to find their way in life.

"We take all of our people to Snowdon where we have a house with no computer and no TV. We climb the mountain, we cross lakes and we get stuck in to all sorts of things that take people out of their comfort zones. We teach the proper geeks as well as our sales people the importance of relying on other people and self reliance too."

Reacting to a caller's suggestion that "the world would be a better place if the internet hadn't been invented", Jones said: "I think all technology, if it is misused or mismanaged, can be dangerous. An ambulance driven badly is dangerous but do we want to go back to horse-drawn ambulances? No. You have to understand it and use it carefully."

Jones is a keen advocate of nurturing young talent in the technology industry. Under his guidance, UKFast became one of the first businesses in the country to get involved in the National IT Diploma - a scheme that allows 14-18 year olds to specialise in IT in a more vocational way, by prioritising it within their curriculum. The diploma replaces 4 standard GCSEs and 2 A Levels within a student's education.

The Manchester-based hosting firm contributes to the diploma by holding a range of workshops, seminars and data centre tours for schools across Manchester.


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