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Guest Blog: Interview with James Turing

Eager to find out more about the founder of our innovative organisation, I asked him the following set of questions to get an idea of the man behind the Trust.

  1. Aside from being the great-nephew of the remarkable Alan Turing, what inspired you to start up the Turing Trust?

It was all about the opportunity. Being in Ghana in 2009 and seeing how hard it was for schools to get reasonable PCs at affordable prices really motivated me. I just couldn’t believe it could be that hard! Then coming back to the UK it was actually relatively easy to get used PCs as it seemed everyone had the issue of what they could usefully do with their old computers.

  1. You are currently undertaking a PhD and founded the organisation whilst being a student at the University of Edinburgh (congrats!). How do you manage to run an international charity whilst hitting the books at the same time?

I honestly have no idea!

  1. Tell us the journey of a donated computer from its arrival in the Edinburgh office to a school in one of the countries that you operate in. Who does what in terms of trustees, permanent staff and volunteers?

Trustees are responsible for our legal oversight and management decisions. They often get roped into a lot of everything else of course!  You just need to ask Andrew just how many hours he’s spent wiping PCs that are now in African classrooms! Our staff team are the critical people who ensure everything happens when and how it should. Our volunteers are the real superstars behind everything we do.  They processed 99% of the 1,906 PCs we sent to Ghana, Malawi and Liberia last year. Without them none of this would be possible!

  1. The Turing Trust operates in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya. What motivated you to begin working in these countries and what would you say has been the biggest challenges in each place?

We began in each country because of the significant needs we encountered. When we set up in Ghana in 2009, Integrated Community Centres for Employable Skills (ICCES) only had a few computers in over 60 schools. We have now supplied high-spec PCs to the majority of ICCES with adequate building infrastructure – this is now 87% of the 63 schools.

Malawi – Scotland has always had a strong connection to Malawi. Knowing this, as well as the stark needs in Malawi we always had an eye on working there and were very fortunate as support from Malaptop and our partnership with the Centre for Youth and Development have enabled us to really start making an impact there.

Kenya is pretty far ahead of many African nations and by working here we’ve been able to build some strong partnerships that have evolved the way we’re able to support schools throughout Africa.

  1. Due to your work being based in predominantly rural areas, have you seen any barriers to accessing education for rural communities? If so, what steps do you see as being necessary to overcome them?

The biggest challenge is certainly electricity. Even schools with grid access, you often find the more rural an area, the more erratic the grid access meaning schools struggle to teach with IT effectively. We hope that our SolarBerry will offer an alternative!

  1. More generally, what would you say is the biggest challenge the Turing Trust faces currently?

As with any charity, fundraising is always our biggest challenge as we look to support schools that can’t afford to pay market rates for the equipment they need. However, by reusing IT we’re able to have a great multiplier effect by adding value to otherwise waste resources in the UK. Therefore, by collecting IT donations as well as cash donations we can make the biggest impact with our resources.

  1. Do you have any plans to work on access to technology here in Scotland, be it in schools or elsewhere?

Our volunteering programme in Edinburgh is helping to give hand-on opportunities with hardware that’s having some great benefits for our local community in Scotland.

  1. What are some of your personal highlights over the life-span of Turing Trust?

Throughout the 9 year life of the Turing Trust I have always been amazed by the generosity of others. Be it volunteers in the UK, or the African teachers we’re working with. Together I truly believe we can achieve our vision of a world with technology-enabled education for all.

  1. Are there any future plans for the organisation you’d like to share?

We will have provided 50 million hours of IT supported student learning in African classrooms by 2020!

Written by Kara Weekes, Social Media Intern.