Scot­tish Tech Army now num­bers more than 850 in its ranks as vol­un­teers do their bit

Evening Times - - NEWS - BY CA­TRI­ONA STE­WART

ATEAM of high-tech vol­un­teers are boost­ing the work of char­i­ties by help­ing move their ser­vices on­line. De­spite launch­ing only eight weeks ago, the Scot­tish Tech Army is now 850-peo­ple strong and its work is sup­port­ing more than 70 third sec­tor groups such as the Go­van Com­mu­nity Project.

The char­ity se­cured fund­ing to buy smart phones and tablets but manag­ing the loan of so many de­vices was tough.

Traci Kirk­land, the project’s Head of Char­ity, said: “Many of our com­mu­nity mem­bers are ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble and ex­pe­ri­ence dig­i­tal poverty.

“This means that peo­ple didn’t have ac­cess to suit­able de­vices, WiFi or 4G data.

“We needed an au­to­mated sys­tem that would keep track of the de­vices we lent to peo­ple and pre-in­stall the apps they needed.

“We didn’t have the this our­selves.”

When lock­down hit, the Go­van Com­mu­nity Project moved its English classes, a home­work club, weekly com­mu­nity groups and its trans­la­tion ser­vice on­line.

Covid-19 also meant a re­duc­tion in cus­tomer de­mand for the project’s so­cial enterprise, Voiceover skills to do

In­ter­pret­ing, which into the char­ity.

Faced with an im­me­di­ate drop in in­come, Traci had to quickly find a so­lu­tion.

She added: “Be­cause of lock­down we weren’t able to of­fer face-to-face trans­la­tion, and many of our reg­u­lar cus­tomers paused their ser­vice de­liv­ery.

“We de­cided that by op­ti­mis­ing dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing to drive more traf­fic to our web­site, we could pro­mote this new ser­vice more widely but again lacked the dig­i­tal ex­per­tise in this area.

“The Scot­tish Tech Army has helped kick­start the mar­ket­ing of our on­line video trans­la­tion ser­vice.

“This will bring much needed in­come into the char­ity again.”

The Scot­tish Tech Army was co-founded by en­trepreneur­s Alis­tair Forbes and Peter Jaco in just two weeks af­ter a chance meet­ing on a daily lock­down walk.

Alis­tair was frus­trated that there was lit­tle any­one could do other than stay at home and wash their hands.

He said: “As more and more tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple were put on ice as fur­lough and re­dun­dancy took hold, I could see an ur­gent need for those skills from the char­ity and vol­un­tary sec­tor.

“Peter and I had a clear vi­sion of set­ting up an or­gan­i­sa­tion that could match the right peo­ple to the right project.”

Af­ter set­ting up the not-for-profit brings funds com­pany, Alis­tair and Peter sought help from Paul Atkin­son of Head Re­sourc­ing.

Re­al­is­ing that govern­ment back­ing would help give the Scot­tish Tech Army cred­i­bil­ity and ac­cess to many op­por­tu­ni­ties to help, they started work­ing with Civtech and the Scot­tish Govern­ment Dig­i­tal Direc­torate.

Mo­bilised into spe­cial­ist teams, the Scot­tish Tech Army formed rapid re­sponse units to fix dig­i­tal prob­lems fast.

Alis­tair added: “Our mis­sion was to help char­i­ties, vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions, lo­cal govern­ment, Scot­tish Govern­ment and govern­ment funded agen­cies tackle the dig­i­tal chal­lenges caused by Covid-19.

“The eye-catch­ing brand cre­ated by He­len Davies of Por­ridge De­sign gave us an iden­tity, a per­son­al­ity around which we could build a com­mu­nity.

“A small core team of four launched Scot­tish Tech Army from our re­spec­tive homes and by the end of the first week we had al­ready smashed our tar­get for vol­un­teers and projects.

“I’m enor­mously proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time and ex­cited about the chal­lenges ahead.

“As we tran­si­tion out of lock­down and into a new re­al­ity, there is still a huge job to be done.

“But, there is strong com­mit­ment on the part of every­one at the Scot­tish Tech Army to con­tinue the work we have started.”

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