Turing’s legacy

7 March 2013
By Kate Parker
Helping develop sustainable rural schools in Ghana

The Turing Trust: bringing the benefits of the IT revolution to rural communities in Africa.

James Turing, right

Turing’s philanthropic spirit  lives on through great nephew James Turing.

This year’s BCS/IET Turing Lecture 2013 had a special guest in the form of James Turing, the great nephew of Alan Turing.

Attending this year’s BCS/IET Turing Lecture 2013 was special guest James Turing, the great nephew of Alan Turing, who is widely considered to be the forefather of modern computing and after whom this prestigious lecture is named.
Entitled ‘What they didn't teach me: building a technology company and taking it to market’, this year’s lecture, held last month, was given by Suranga Chandratillake, founder and chief strategy officer of blinkx plc, the Internet video search engine company that he started in 2004, took public in 2007 and led as CEO until 2012. In his lecture, Suranga spoke about his experience of going into industry versus academia, and the founding and path to growth of his company, blinkx plc. His lecture also referred to 'Turing's world’, the incredible, pervasive influence of computers on our lives and concluded by sharing his thoughts on what more might be done to help create successful technology companies.
A British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist, Turing’s life and work laid the foundations of modern computer technology. The all-pervasive nature, touched on in Suranga’s lecture, of the general-purpose computer has made the most profound mark on almost every aspect of our lives and the central figure in this computer revolution was Alan Turing, whose originality and vision pushed forward the boundaries of work originating in the mid-1930s. In honour and recognition of Turing’s massive contribution in the field of computing, the then IEE (as the IET was then called) and the BCS established the Turing Lecture in 1999.
As Alan Turing’s work continues to inspire the generations, so too does the efforts of the Turing Trust, an African micro-development charity set up in 2009 to develop sustainable rural schools in Ghana.
The Trust was established by James Turing, the great nephew of Alan Turing, after he volunteered in Ghana, teaching at a vocational training school, Afoako Integrated Community Centre for Employable Skills, in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
Searching for a way to help the school provide a chance for its students to break free from poverty, James looked to his great-uncle for inspiration in bringing the benefits of the IT revolution to rural communities in Africa, in a lasting, self-sustaining way.
Through fund-raising and support the Trust has made huge changes to the lives of children in Ghana. Since it began it has enabled 20 extra students to gain an education each year. It has built and furnished a computer lab enabling a whole community to access to the digital world, as well as donating over £40,000 and 85 computers to associated schools in Ghana. Most importantly it has ensured that hundreds of students have been able to gain an education. Member News caught up with James to talk to him about the Trust:

Member News: Did you enjoy the lecture?!
James Turing: The lecture was amazing! I got the opportunity to see it twice and learnt new things both times and it really inspired me with what the future might hold.
MN: What does it feel like to carry on the legacy of such a distinguished relative?
JT: It is a tremendous honour and something that is eternally inspiring. Every time we have another small success I think about how huge an impression Alan has left on the world and hope that the Turing Trust will one day enable his impact to reach even the most deprived of communities in Africa.
MN: How do you use the Turing name to inspire the next generation?
JT: We believe that Alan’s philanthropic spirit can live on through the Turing Trust, where his legacy can help improve the lives of those who have not yet benefitted from the technological wonders of the age that Alan helped to bring us. By sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves the gifts and opportunities which Alan gave to the West, the Turing Trust hopes to expand the opportunities available to the village children of Ghana enabling them to live happier, healthier lives.
MN: How can the engineering and technology community help to raise the profile of the type of work you’re doing through the Turing Trust?
JT: Simply by spreading the word and directing people towards our website, in particular our computer recycling projects which are helping to send hundreds of computers to Ghana. Thanks to some of the wonderful donors at the most recent lectures we might even be sending thousands of PCs in the next year!
Another amazing thing that people can help us with is to start using ‘easyfundraising’ which simply asks any online retailer you use to start making donations on your behalf when you shop with them. All the details are on our website.

For more information visit:


You can view this year’s BCS/IET Turing Lecture at http://tv.theiet.org/technology/infopro/16066.cfm

Used computer scheme

The Turing Trust is always actively seeking old computers and equipment that it can use to provide computer facilities to as many rural schools in Ghana as possible. The Trust is able to collect equipment from within the UK, wipe PCs to an industry standard and ship them to Ghana. It does not cost anything to donate.
If you have any old computers, or know of a business that might be changing their computers soon, please get in touch via the website.

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