IOHK’s Haskell course addresses blockchain coder shortage

A shortage of developers knowledgeable in the code behind many popular blockchain applications has the potential to limit the industry’s growth.

Blockchain research and development company IOHK is taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen by providing training in the code, which is called Haskell, chief scientist Aggelos Kiayias said.

Over the summer IOHK debuted a three-month coding and cryptocurrencies course in Athens, Greece that taught Haskell. Led by Dr. Lars Brünjes, Haskell developer at IOHK, and Dr. Andres Löh, a partner at boutique Haskell consulting firm Well-Typed, the course provided on-the-job training to the students from the National Technical University of Athens School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the University of Athens.

Dr. Kiayias said IOHK uses Haskell for most of its development functional programming language because it allows designers to work on a more conceptual level.

Many other common programming languages require developers to code in a very detailed way, forcing them to essentially revert down to core elements and build it back up as close to their original vision as possible. That leaves the language open to errors and security vulnerabilities due to the significant amount of detail that must be included at each step.

Dr. Aggelos Kiayias

“At a higher level, the programmer can think of concepts to achieve,” Dr. Kiayias explained. “They can write at a higher, more conceptual level what is mathematical in nature.”

When developers are freed to create that way, the code they produce can more easily be tested for compliance and its meaning tends to be more consistent with the original vision, he added.

In spite of its advantages, functional programming languages like Haskell are not as frequently taught as they should be in most training programs, leaving companies working in them struggling to find qualified staff. IOHK has already benefited, as several graduates from the maiden course have found work at IOHK.

The course included both lectures and hands-on opportunities directly inspired by IOHK’s work, Dr. Kiayias said. Most of the students were from Greece, where there is great interest to look at new areas for solutions to the country’s economic problems. Other regions would be wise to develop similar programming, for while developers are mobile, there are benefits in creating a critical talent mass, especially so early in the game when visionary companies can still gain an early-to-market advantage Dr. Kiayias said.

“Building a community around a topic and area I think is an advantage.”

The initial program appears to be a success, so look for more offerings in the future.

“We are looking forward to doing it again,” Dr. Kiayias said.