It was an absolute pleasure this week to be invited to the Techies in Residence Bootcamp, just one of the many events taking place during the week-long CultureTECH 2015 Festival in the thriving cultural bustle that is Derry City.
In the surroundings of The Playhouse, one of the city’s popular arts and culture centres, five teams came together to discuss a particular challenge or need within their community area or field of work, where technology might provide a potential long-term product or service.
In its gathering of people from public, private and third sector roles together with designers, developers and citizens with a genuine interest in making change happen, the bootcamp set the teams to work on strategising and prototype ideas around methodologies and catalysts for improvement.
Just before lunch, group members shared their sketches from the morning session. One example came from Stephen Gray, Head of Information Management at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NIVCA), who along with colleague Bob Harper shared a concept around framing a freemium directory model on top of the existing NIVCA CommunityNI site where groups such as NEETs or family support teams could build their own online community services.
Up next was Ciaran Murray, winner of this week's NI Digital Business Person of Year 2015, whose team looked to build on the JAM Card pilot, an innovative project launched last year initiated by people living with learning disabilities or difficulties, helping them address the issues faced when using public services.
With over 2000 JAM cards (the acronym derived from Just a Minute) being currently recognised by 230 businesses across Northern Ireland, Ciaran had the idea of registering those businesses further in the scheme by taking their status from JAM Aware to JAM Approved, in addition to a complimentary app where JAM Card users can use tech to find discounts linked to JAM Approved firms.
Colleagues Kieran Hughes and Michelle Byrne from AWARE NI — the only charity in Northern Ireland currently working with young people with depression — were keen to test out ideas beyond the charity’s two-hour class-based course Mood Matters, using tech to engage their clients. With the tagline Do 1 Thing, they worked on an app set to encourage teenagers to feel good about their mental health and creativity.
I was delighted to take the floor just after lunch to speak a little about Tech for Good TVs multimedia work and principals, sharing some of my favourite tech for good examples of the past few months, including digital tool Buddy App, aimed at supporting therapy services around mental health, Companion App, which tracks journeys for people feeling unsafe on their commute and the genuine game-changing What3Words, the global addressing system which has helped to deliver practical relief to developing areas with no official postcode.
Huge thanks go to Connor Doherty, programme manager of both the CultureTech Festival and Techies in Residence, and for the warm welcome from Dearbhaile Heaney, designer and founder of D.R.A.W and facilitator of the day’s bootcamp. And all the best to everyone in taking each of the boot camp ideas forward in the coming weeks.
One thing learned for my visit to the CultureTech Festival is the desire and talent to highlight, challenge and create tech for good is alive and well...and certainly thriving in the very special city of Derry.