Microsoft supported Codetoki through the BizSpark program, which includes Microsoft Azure cloud hosting services as well as local technical support. Together, Codetoki and Microsoft are helping to inspire rural youth and kick-start professional careers. Since its launch, Codetoki has attracted more than 2,745 players from 155 schools.
Codetoki is a web application that challenges players to code specific functions in a variety of languages. The application automatically tests the code using an online interpreter service. The students receive points and badges based on their performance.
To help students with employment, Codetoki also keeps a record of each player’s score and makes them available to potential employers. This helps students prove that they have a specific IT skill level when applying for a job.
Ademar and his colleague built their Codetoki app using Ruby on Rails and MongoDB, and deployed it on Ubuntu Linux servers. To bring their app to Filipino students, however, Ademar needed to find a low-cost, cloud-infrastructure partner to host their web servers and databases.
Ademar wanted a solution that would enable as many young Filipino students as possible to access Codetoki. His criteria were minimal cost to Codetoki, support for open source technologies and excellent local technical support.
“We used a range of open source programming languages to build Codetoki. Hence, we had to make sure that the cloud platform we chose supported them all without creating any additional challenges,” says Ademar. “The platform also had to be exceptionally reliable with good local support: we are skilled at creating software, not configuring servers in the cloud.”
“A good cost calculator was also essential to ensure proper fiscal planning,” he adds. “Cloud service calculators are becoming more common, but they are not all easy to use. In contrast to other cloud providers, the Microsoft Azure service has an excellent cost calculator that is highly intuitive. Looking at the results, we knew that Azure would help us manage costs—as a startup and beyond.”
During the deployment, Ademar received assistance from Microsoft Azure support staff to set up the two interoperable cloud environments. As a result, Codetoki players enjoy a seamless online experience, and Ademar continues to use his own, optimal combination of languages and operating systems.
“We found it fairly easy to deploy Codetoki on Azure, and the process took just one day,” says Ademar. “It made no difference that we mostly used Ubuntu with one of the interpreters on Windows PaaS. We didn’t have to make any major changes to our code.”
By using Microsoft cloud technologies, Codetoki has helped bring a new dimension to the Philippine Government’s ICT skills-empowerment strategy. In its first year, Codetoki attracted more than 2,745 players and by early 2014, Codetoki was providing skills assessments that helped young Filipinos into ICT jobs.
Empowering youth through ICT skills
So far, students from 155 schools have used Codetoki. It is actively helping students find jobs. “Employers tell us that the Codetoki profiles are very helpful, and students are asking us to create profiles they can take to interviews,” says Ademar. “Most recently, we provided three references, and all of them went on to get jobs.”
Low operating costs for startups
A key factor in Codetoki’s ability to go-to-market so successfully is the BizSpark program. “Microsoft is helping us help young Filipinos from rural backgrounds find good jobs with great prospects. The Microsoft BizSpark program caps the amount we initially pay for our servers, helping keep the launch costs low,” says Ademar. “We will stay with Azure once we exit BizSpark because our costs will still be low, transparent and predictable.”
Rapid deployment; on-going support
Ademar says that his ability to swiftly launch Codetoki demonstrates the value of Azure and the local support Microsoft provides. “The Azure documentation is clear and easy to read, and the support is great,” he says. “I filed a question on the Azure site on one occasion, and the Microsoft support staff responded within minutes!
“I do not think we could have deployed so fast with a different cloud platform. With Azure, we have a highly interoperable cloud platform that allows our Windows- and Linux-based applications to work seamlessly together. It also enables us to continue building out Codetoki with development languages and frameworks of our choice, without worrying about platform and integration issues.”
An easy-to-use interface
Having chosen Azure, Ademar was delighted to discover that it made Codetoki easy to manage in a cloud environment. “Compared to our experience with other cloud services I think Azure has the most intuitive interface,” he says. “This is absolutely critical to us because we need to focus on software design, not on migration or server management.”
International success and recognition
Codetoki has also won international acclaim. In 2014, Codetoki become one of just 13 startups to qualify in the JFDI Asia Accelerator Program, and is now aiming to expand into Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. In recognition of their achievement, the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology asked Ademar and his partner if they could feature Codetoki during their Next Wave Cities Roadshow, as one of the most promising startups in the country.
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