Motorbike thieves are being urged to become digital pioneers – by using their “transferable skills”.
Computing student Azad Adam is launching new technology workshops in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, in a bid to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation.
And he believes by introducing new concepts, the cycle of crime and antisocial behaviour will eventually be broken.
Mr Adam, 41, moved to the Capital in 2015 and lives in Muirhouse while studying at Edinburgh Napier University.
He said: “Some people here have created their own economies, and you can’t blame them, but if you can steal a motorbike in five minutes or understand the business models involved in selling produce then you have transferable skills.
“We have to try something different to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation that is intertwined with crime and antisocial behaviour. If you introduce new concepts at a young age, then in a few years’ time you will reap the benefits.
“The north of Edinburgh is an untapped market with masses of potential.”
Mr Adam’s passion for social justice was first awakened as he grew up in south London in the 1980s, the first-born child of South African immigrants.
He later ended up in a hostel for nine months as a result of relationship problems – where he witnessed a woman attempting to kill herself.
He said: “It was a very tough environment. I saw a woman with very complicated post-traumatic stress issues trying to take her own life, while I was on the phone to the emergency services.
“There was also a lot of self-harming going on.”
Mr Adam moved to Edinburgh in November 2015, spending his first night at a YMCA in Broomhouse.
However, with previous industry experience in computer programming, he got funding to embark on an MSc in Computing at Edinburgh Napier, and he also got a paid summer internship at Bright Red Triangle, where he developed his interest in using technology to promote social inclusion.
Mr Adam founded Outsideworld.cloud, with the aim of creating “digital new towns” in deprived areas, and began working with Community Renewal at Muirhouse Shopping Centre, where he has transformed a storeroom into a creative technology workshop.
He said: “We want residents to drop in and see the opportunities offered by digital devices.”
Sally Smith, Edinburgh Napier’s Dean of Computing, has donated 16 computers to the project, which have been distributed to community groups.
Mr Adam said: “What we want to do is inspire people and change their perceptions by getting them to come in and have a play at weekly or fortnightly workshops.”
The university’s Nick Fannin, head of Bright Red Triangle, said: “Azad has done a huge amount to drive this project in a short space of time.
“The thing that really impresses me is that his first thought is always about how the project can be of value to the community.”