Scottish Tech Army helps asylum seekers in Govan get online

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A TEAM of hi-tech volunteers has helped over has helped boost the digital capabilities of over 70 organisations which include charities helping asylum seekers.

The Scottish Tech Army was set up over eight weeks ago and has a team of over 850 volunteers helping provide the digital services these charities could offer.

One of them included the Govan Community Project in Glasgow that works with asylum seekers  but, when lockdown hit the charity had to move everything online.

Pete Jaco and Alistair Forbes co-founders of the volunteer group Scottish Tech Army
Pete Jaco and Alistair Forbes co-founders of the volunteer group Scottish Tech Army. (C) Alex Hewitt

This included a English classes, homework club and its translation services.

Traci Kirkland, the project’s Head of Charity, quickly secured funding to buy smart phones and tablets so the people they support could continue to access the charity’s services.

But, the challenge was finding a solution to loan multiple devices as many of the community members are “extremely vulnerable” and “experienced digital poverty”.

Many didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or 4G data so the charity needed an automated system that tracked the devices that were lent to people with the pre-installed app.

Kirkland said: “Covid-19 also meant a reduction in customer demand for the project’s social enterprise, Voiceover Interpreting, an important revenue stream for the Govan charity. Faced with an immediate drop in income, Kirkland had to quickly find a solution.

“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”.

Govan Community Project volunteers who sought advice for help from the Scottish Tech Army to boost their digital capabilities
Govan Community Project volunteers who sought advice for help from the Scottish Tech Army to boost their digital capabilities (C) GCP

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.

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

Forbes added: “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 company Forbes and Jaco sought help from Paul Atkinson of Head Resourcing and 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.

 
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