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Chinese coders beat all-comers

Technology gulf between east and west clear to see

By Phil Muncaster, 12 Apr 2012

Does China have the best hackers in the world? Well, new stats from code sprint site Interview Street would seem to indicate that they certainly dominate the global rankings when it comes to programming skills.

The Bangalore-based web company provides a platform for coders to measure their abilities in a series of pre-assigned tests, before evaluating and ranking users on a leaderboard.

With clients such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and EMC, the site has grown quickly to become widely known as one of the best places for ambitious programmers to get noticed by the big boys.

A glance at the current leaderboard shows nine of the top ten coders hail from China and five more occupy positions in 11-20 – pretty compelling statistics.

Some reports have suggested rather alarmingly that this proves the pre-eminence of Chinese hackers worldwide, but if anything it’s just another indication of the dearth of young talent coming through in science and technology subjects in the West.

As has been the case for decades now, in the UK at least, science and tech subjects are on the decline at school and university level while students favour arts and languages course in ever greater numbers.

The government’s announcement last year of an overhaul to GCSE and A-Level exams to include more focus on coding and programming is a step in the right direction but fails to address the basic fact that sci-tech courses don’t have the requisite cool to attract large numbers of students.

Security experts have warned, however, that this could ultimately affect the UK’s ability to defend against a growing wave of cyber threats.

According to a recent high profile report by US defence contractor Northrop Grumman, the Chinese government ploughs obscene amounts of money into university technology programs covering areas such as information warfare - money western states couldn't hope to match.

While it doesn’t tell the whole story, looking at the Interview Street leaderboard in this context does make for particularly grim reading. ®