Please tell us a bit about the origins of Digital Xtra Fund?
Digital Xtra Fund was initially developed through a partnership between Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and ScotlandIS. The concept was to “work with industry to increase access to computer clubs and extracurricular computing activities across Scotland.” The task was to establish a central coordination and funding resource to increase access to extracurricular initiatives for young people. In 2017, the Fund became an independent charity enabling it to partner with a wider range of industry partners and stakeholders. With this, though, came the expectation Digital Xtra Fund would also be able to stand on its own two feet. Thankfully, industry got behind the Fund once the initial grants showed what was possible.
How would you describe the work that DXF does?
Since its inception, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded over £725,000 to 102 initiatives and in turn, these grant recipients have engaged nearly 45,000 young people with skills such as computational thinking, coding, robotics, cyber, and data science while also highlighting the future career opportunities these skills can provide. This is a fantastic achievement for a small charity.
Digital Xtra Fund still works closely with SDS and ScotlandIS, but now counts several other high-profile businesses amongst its partners including Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures, JP Morgan, Skyscanner, and SWiT. It is worth highlighting that several of these partners are not considered traditional “tech” companies; however, the line between a tech company and a company that uses tech continues to fade only increasing demand for these skills. That’s why it is so important to help young people understand that the niche role of a technology in the 80’s and 90’s is no longer accurate. Now everyone needs to be confident in understanding and creating with technology, not simply using it. This isn’t to say all young people will become developers, but all young people should have the knowledge and insight to properly make that decision.
What does the future hold for DXF?
We are increasingly focussed on encouraging project-based learning, where young people actively engage in real-world or personally meaningful projects. Over 102 initiatives, it has become apparent that grant recipients who provide context for the skills being learned and highlight real-life examples are more successful at engaging young people. It’s no longer enough to just teach young people about technology, we need show them how it can be applied to real life – particularly in areas such as climate tech or health tech where it can make such a positive impact. Engaging with industry to help provide this context and guidance is also increasingly important. The flexibility of the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards is a perfect way for schools and educational organisations to implement this type of learning. Scotland has the potential, the resources, and the will to punch well above its weight in tech innovation. However, the first step is inspiring young people to learn the digital skills they will need.
Why did you choose .scot as part of your internet identity?
Digital Xtra Fund was created to support tech activities that help young people across Scotland develop the digital skills they need to succeed regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. The dotScot domain gives businesses and organisations a way to prominently celebrate their Scottish culture and heritage online. The two are extensions of the same ethos that Scotland is a vibrant, open, outward-looking digital nation aiming to give its citizens – both young and old – the knowledge and confidence to benefit from the social, economic, and democratic opportunities created with technology. In particular, it is important we take pride in our homegrown successes, highlighting them from Gretna Green to Lerwick and beyond, to help inspire more Scots on their digital journey.
For more information, please visit https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/