Annual technology conference, The Turing Festival, takes place in Edinburgh this week

Alice Muir

The annual Turing Festival takes place in Edinburgh this week, inviting entrepreneurs from around the world to take part in the conference, which covers topics related to the technology sector.

THE Turing Festival technology conference has kicked off in Edinburgh this week, giving the Scottish technology and startup sector an inspirational boost.

The annual Turing Festival, a conference held in Edinburgh for people in the Scottish technology sector, is named in honour of world-renowned computer scientist, Alan Turing. The conference aims to inspire the Scottish technology and innovation sector by inviting entrepreneurs and CEOs from around the world to speak at the conference.

Alan Turing was the creator of the Enigma machine, which contributed to Britain’s victory during World War II. The Enigma machine was a complex computer used by British Intelligence to intercept German code during WWII.

The Turing Trust, an organisation set up by members of Alan Turing’s family, were present at the conference. Turing’s nephew, a member of the Trust organisation, Sir John Dermot Turing, delivered a speech reminding the audience of Scottish entrepreneurs of Alan Turing’s legacy, both in contributing to the future of computer science, as well as his philanthropic legacy which involved sponsoring the education of a WWII refugee.

Sir John Dermot Turing, newphew of Alan Turing

Lady Nicola Turing, a member of the Turing family and an active member of the Turing Trust organisation, also delivered a speech at the conference, highlighting some of the work that the Turing Trust does in collaboration with other Scottish charities, to improve computer science education in Africa.

The Turing Trust, which has offices in Edinburgh, aims to ensure that all people, regardless of economic status, are given equal access to ICT education. One of the projects in which they are involved in sends old computers, which have been donated to them by companies and individuals in Scotland, to Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Volunteers assosciated with the trust then use the donated computers to teach people in rural African communities about computer science.

“We are working with the education departments in the countries to try and ensure that what we are delivering is adding value to the community.” Lady Nicola Turing

One of the projects based in Malawi, known as the SolarBerry project, is a computer lab powered by solar energy using energy-efficient Raspberry Pi computers. Raspberry Pi computers are incredibly low-cost computers (starting at around $5 per model) which are used to encourage people in disadvantaged communities and third world countries to get involved in computer programming. The computers require to be programmed by their users before they can be used.

The Turing Trust have partnered with Scottish charity, Malaptop, to make their work in Malawi possible. Malaptop is a Stirling-based charity which donates laptops to schools in Malawi.

Lady Nicola Turing said:

“we tried to develop the package that we deliver [in Africa] at the moment to make sure it’s fit for the curriculum in the country.

“We are working with the education departments in the countries to try and ensure that what we are delivering is adding value to the community.”

Lady Nicola

There are currently 4 billion people in the world without access to the internet, according to a report carried out by the United Nations. Moreover, according to research carried out by the Turing Trust, 93 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to a computer.

These statistics result in disadvantaged and poor communities becoming even more disconnected from the rest of the world. Not having access to the internet limits their potential to grow their economy, and limits their scope of information and access to educational resources, pushing them further behind the rest of the world and in particular more developed countries. 

Other speakers at the conference included Graham Paterson of food delivery service, Deliveroo; Rand Fishkin, CEO of popular SEO marketing service MOZ and Hilary Roberts of successful Scottish startup, Skyscanner. Each speaker delivered a presentation on how technology startups can improve their working environment, their productivity and their presence on the global technology market.