Turing Talks gears up for inaugural Edinburgh event

James Turing, great-nephew of code-breaker Alan Turing, says tech can 'enable real change' in developing countries. Picture: Contributed
James Turing, great-nephew of code-breaker Alan Turing, says tech can 'enable real change' in developing countries. Picture: Contributed
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A social enterprise founded by the great-nephew of Second World War code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing is to host a conference in Edinburgh next month to examine how technology can help developing countries.

Turing Trust has lined up a range of speakers, including endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont and Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, principal of the University of Edinburgh, for its inaugural Turing Talks event, to be held on 13 June at the National Museum of Scotland.

You can bring together people and organisations passionate about using tech to enable real change

James Turing

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Philanthropic adventurer Bernie Hollywood, who has raised more £39.6 million for charities, will provide the welcome address at the conference, which will include talks from Sage chief Stephen Kelly, who will discuss the challenges of accounting in Africa, and Barclays vice-president Roland Bone, who will address problems with sending funds to help those in conflict zones.

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The line-up was announced as Turing Trust, established in 2009 by director James Turing, prepares to roll out more of its “SolarBerry” computer classrooms across Ghana and Malawi to help schools provide IT training to their communities. The initiative uses tiny Raspberry Pi computers in solar-powered recycled shipping containers to create “off-grid” learning labs.

Its first shipment last year sent 592 computers to Malawi, while more than 120 teachers and centre managers have been trained in Ghana.

Turing said: “While getting technology into African classrooms is an enormous challenge, Turing Talks is demonstrating that you can bring together people and organisations passionate about using tech to enable real change – we like to think of it as disrupting the way we help the developing world. We have a small team based in Edinburgh and Africa and every supporter and sponsor we add makes a difference.”

Less than 20 per cent of rural sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity, while just 2 per cent of schools in Malawi have access to a computer. Turing Trust has a goal to provide 50 million hours of IT-supported learning in African classrooms by 2020.

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Solomon Assefa, director of IBM Research in Africa, said: “Disruptive technologies, such as cognitive computing and blockchain, are being developed across Africa for Africa. The Turing Talks recognise these innovations and the innovators behind them and provide a platform to come together to eventually put them to work on addressing the grand challenges of the continent including healthcare, financial inclusion and the environment.”

The conference is being sponsored by ZoneFox – the Edinburgh-based cyber-security start-up led by chief executive and co-founder Jamie Graves – and email protection specialist OnDMARC.

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