Big data is ‘levelling the playing field’ for charities, first Microsoft digital skills event in Scotland is told

Big data is “levelling the playing field” for charities and allowing them to gain similar insights into their customers as international corporations, Microsoft’s first-ever digital skills conference in Scotland has heard.

The head of the technology firm in the country said it was an “amazingly exciting” time to be involved in the Third Sector and that was mainly due to technology.

“One of the features of technology that I find most exciting for the third sector is how it’s helping to level the playing field,” Steven Grier said. “The power of data, for example, in providing valuable insight about who and where your donors are and when they are likely to donate, is amazingly exciting for charities.”

Focusing on digital transformation and cyber security, Microsoft’s Tech4Good event was aimed at tackling the lack of technology skills among UK charities through free learning workshops.

Almost half of all charities in the of UK lack basic digital skills, according to Lloyd’s Bank UK Digital Business Index 2016, with organisations in the Third Sector ranking above small businesses in their need for better digital learning opportunities and access to technology. The Lloyds report also found that charities which are more digitally experienced are 28% more likely to attract additional funding.

Eve Joseph, Microsoft’s UK Responsibility Manager and Tech4Good Lead, said: “I believe technology can be a powerful force that opens exciting opportunities for charities to achieve their missions and accelerate their impact. But for this to happen, it is fundamental for charity leaders to have a basic understanding of technology and to embed digital in their strategic planning.

“This event is all about helping charities in Scotland to begin this journey and to hear from our employees, offering support to help charities understand the positive impact technology can have on their charitable missions.”

Interns at Microsoft Scotland

Some of the Microsoft staff who worked on the Tech4Good event at the Edinburgh office

Tech4Good, which is a key Microsoft philanthropies initiative championed and run by Microsoft interns from across the UK, was held at Microsoft’s Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh, in partnership with the SCVO, Scotland’s charity membership organisation, and the Technology Trust, a foundation connecting charities with technology offerings.

“SCVO is delighted to be involved with Microsoft in bringing Tech4Good to Edinburgh,” said Sally Dyson, Head of Digital Participation at the group. “Were all about helping charities and voluntary organisations stay up-to-date with the ever-changing digital scene. Tech4Good is a great opportunity for organisations to get to grips with what’s happening right now and hear direct from Microsoft about what might work for them.”

Attendees heard talks on current trends in the technology sector, Office365, Sway and Big Data, as well as Microsoft’s donation programme. In the past decade, Microsoft has donated more than £100 million worth of software to UK charities.