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Tech volunteers launch COVID response

Tech Army Founders, Alistair Forbes and Peter Jaco. Image credit: Alex Hewitt

Tech volunteers launch COVID response

More than 70 organisations across Scotland have now received support from the Scottish Tech Army (STA), a voluntary group set up to help provide digital support to groups struggling during the COVID lockdown.

After its founding at the start of lockdown, the group, made up of around 850 volunteers, has worked alongside Civtech and the Scottish Government Digital Directorate to establish ‘rapid response units’ aimed at providing solutions to digital problems for organisations hit by the pandemic. 

In one case the STA helped Govan Community Project, a charity which supports asylum seekers with services such as food banks, women’s groups and language lessons, move its services online and boost marketing of services.

While the charity distributed digital devices to its service users, a STA volunteer on furlough created a monitoring system for the technology, as well as pre-installing apps to help overcome problems facing the people using them, such as language barriers, limited internet access, and a lack of digital skills.

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, Wi-Fi 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 skills to do this ourselves.”

She added: “Everyone we’ve dealt with couldn’t have been more helpful. Charities rarely have money in their budget to access digital support or internet marketing, so it’s been amazing to have this kind of practical help on offer.”

The STA was co-founded by entrepreneurs Alistair Forbes and Peter Jaco at the start of lockdown. 

Forbes 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.”

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