Computer programming is big news this January. On this side of the Atlantic, education secretary Michael Gove reckons the information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum in England’s schools is “demotivating and dull”. He wants to replace it with courses more focused on computer science and programming.

Across the pond, Michael Bloomberg caused a stir when he announced that he plans to learn how to code in 2012. The New York Mayor is among over 300,000 people who’ve signed up to Code Year, a free computer programming course for absolute beginners. Participants receive a weekly lesson by email.

Is coding cool?

Slowly but surely, writing computer code seems to be shedding its undesirable image. That stereotypical view of a computer programmer as someone who survives on Coke and junk food, is starved of natural daylight and has zero personal skills is being replaced by something different.

As it turns out, computer programmers can be just like the rest of us.

In fact, it seems like the world is slowly waking up to the power that comes with being able to understand a bit of computer code. Never mind being able to operate Microsoft Word: if you know a bit of JavaScript or PHP (two of the most common types of code on the internet) then you can start doing really exciting stuff, like inventing online tools and apps.

It’s about building new things

Whether it’s building full-blown websites and apps or tweaking existing tools, computer code is more relevant to businesses today than ever before. And even if you don’t understand all the ins and outs, just grasping the basic concepts makes it easier to deal with software developers and other techies.

In short: code is the language of IT and the web. As businesses extend their online presence and overall use of IT, a working knowledge of code is a great asset to have.

Every business needs some coding knowledge

Michael Gove has it right. It’s not enough to teach people how to send an email or create a PowerPoint presentation. We need more people who can build new tools online, or who can have an idea and then actually make it happen.

And that doesn’t just go for schools. Businesses can benefit from having some coding talent in-house too. Because as the world we live in becomes increasingly connected, it’s the companies with the assets to exploit technology that stand to gain most.

As New Year’s resolutions go, it seems you could do a lot worse than to give Code Year a whirl. Would you give someone in your company time to try it?