'Codegirl' documentary to hit YouTube before theaters, at no charge

The film focuses on a competition that gets teenage girls to create apps intended to better their own communities.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
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The documentary "Codegirl" aims to inspire a new generation of app developers.


Now playing on YouTube: a new documentary that tells the story of teenage girls who use computer code to solve problems.

The film "Codegirl" is hitting YouTube before it gets to theaters and video on demand, and in that initial window you won't have to pay to watch it.

"Codegirl" follows high-school-age girls from around the world who enter a competition to try to better their communities through app design. The documentary is the work of Lesley Chilcott, who is best-known for her films "Waiting for Superman" and "An Inconvenient Truth." Chilcott collaborated on the film with Technovation, the 6-year-old program that runs the girls-only competition. Technovation is the flagship undertaking of Iridescent, a nonprofit focused on STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) education.

The team that wins the competition gets $10,000 to complete and release its app.

The 108-minute film is another push to encourage greater female participation in technology, a problem with which the high-tech industry continues to struggle. Tech heavyweights including Apple, Intel, Facebook and Twitter have been pushing for greater diversity in their staffs, and the issue has prompted campaigns including one that began in San Francisco in September called "ILookLikeAnEngineer."

The premise of "Codegirl" is to provide girls with positive role models in technology.

The concern, the filmmakers say, is that 80 percent of developers are male and that if this doesn't change, women will see little economic benefit from the growing app market. According to projections by market researcher Gartner, the app market will be valued at $77 billion by 2017. The competition is designed to empower girls to enter this burgeoning market and discover value in their skills.

From now until Thursday, the film will be available for free exclusively on YouTube, via Google's Made with Code initiative, to capture the attention of the teenage audience at which it's aimed. After that, it will begin arriving in theaters and will be available for purchase through Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, PlayStation, Vimeo on Demand and elsewhere.

In a statement, Iridescent CEO Tara Chklovski described the initiative as "a program that has very high expectations of girls and believes in their abilities to lead, to change the world around them."

As soon as she learned of the project, Chilcott said she knew what her next film would be about. "I thought this was one of the coolest ideas I'd ever heard," she said. "Girls are traditionally underrepresented in tech and computer science so encouraging them to find a problem and use technology to solve it was a new angle."

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