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An interview with James Turing

Power2Africa (P2A), which is a core part of Amber, has been working in collaboration with the Turing Trust since 2018 – helping them to deliver clean energy projects in rural Africa. We caught up with the Turing Trust’s founder and CEO, James Turing, to talk about our previous successes and exciting upcoming projects.

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What is the Turing Trust?

The Turing Trust is a charity that works to bridge the digital divide by providing a refurbishment service for computers and then giving them to schools across Africa and, more recently, the UK.

The main aim of this is to maximise the social impact that can be had from these second-hand devices and to minimise their environmental impact as well. What we do has a tremendous environmental saving compared to the premature recycling of perfectly good devices. That’s the twofold thrust of what we do.

The projects that we have worked on with P2A have really focused on providing computers to more rural schools in Malawi – and we’ve also worked on a project in Kenya as well.

Essentially, this is providing students with their very first opportunity to start learning digital skills using computers in their classrooms.

Who do you work with?

We have a broad range of people we work with. About 80% of the computers that get donated come from companies and the other 20% come from individual donors.

We also have a couple of relationships with other companies who support us on the financial side of things, which is critical to getting the computers all processed. While it’s fantastic to get the equipment in the first place, we still need to pay a bit of money to get it moved around and to refurbish the equipment.

Any project partners in Africa?

Our partner in Malawi is the Centre for Youth and Development (CYD). They are a partner on the ground who basically run everything.

CYD were a huge inspiration as to why we started to work in Malawi in the first place. What we learnt from them very early on was that it’s so crucial to have people on the ground telling you what needs to be done. You need to be able to respond to what their needs are.

They have been absolutely integral to everything we do in Malawi.

We’ve currently got a team of up to five people who are working for us there, and they are providing the IT installation services, getting schools up and running, providing the teacher training and the maintenance that enables this programme to have such a long-lasting impact.

How many projects have you done with P2A?

Three overall. The first one we completed back in 2018 was the solar-powered internet cafe in Kenya. Then, in 2019, we installed the computer lab in Euthini Secondary School in Malawi. The most recent one was in 2020.

Anything you’re particularly proud of?

That’s quite hard to answer with so much good work happening thanks to donors and volunteers. It would have to be the last school that we installed because that one was probably the most technically challenging project we’ve done to date. It was kind of experimental for us in the way we approached it.

We’d done some solar power projects before, but we hadn’t done one quite like this. There was a bit of a technical hurdle initially, but the fact that we managed to complete it, with the pandemic ongoing, was truly amazing and thanks to the dedication of our team in Malawi. That was probably the proudest moment recently – to complete the project and get the kids set up and learning.

Any P2A collaborations on the horizon?

Yes, potentially. We’ve got two projects advertised at the moment. One is a hydro and solar-powered IT lab in Malawi. That’s basically using on-grid electricity and supplementing it with a little extra solar to bring it to the 100% renewable target.

And the other one is a 97% hydro-powered computer lab in Malawi that’s being financed through Dan Clegg’s fundraiser. Speaking of which, I’d like to say thank you to P2A for their wonderful approach to our projects. Dan’s fundraiser was very inspiring, not just in the amount of sweat he must have produced in doing the fundraiser, but the way that the entire team seems to really take the projects to their hearts. It’s that kind of passion which is amazing to see.

What is your goal for 2021?

I think our big target for this year is to get about 3,000 computers into the classrooms where they’re needed most.

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