TechVets The Podcast: Dan Brown Gets Disadvantaged Groups Digital

TechVets The Podcast: Dan Brown Gets Disadvantaged Groups Digital

Meredyth Grant

In this show we’re talking to Dan Brown, Founder and CEO of the Positive Transformation Group.

Dan has worked in technology for the last 20 years. But it hasn’t been a straight trajectory to success. He began in a small company called Quintech International. It’s a far cry from where he found himself at 15 years old, homeless and on a downward spiral. After battling addiction, he turned his life around and has set up the Positive Transformation Group to help those who find themselves living in digital poverty.

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Key Talking Points:

  • With the pace technological transformations are taking place today, people who lack digital skills and access to devices are significantly disadvantaged.
  • The government does make funding available for businesses to train employees, however these are often under-utilised.
  • Through the Positive Transformation Group, Dan Brown aims to help businesses to better use these government training programmes to help those at a disadvantage gain employment.
  • Through the Dream Bigger Initiative, he aims to improve the confidence of disadvantaged people, including veterans, by giving them the opportunity to talk to exceptional people.

Dan Brown, founder and CEO of the Positive Transformation Group, has worked in technology for the last 20 years. He began in a small company called Quintech International after being homeless at 15 years old. After battling addiction, he turned his life around and has set up the Positive Transformation Group to help those living in digital poverty.

Dan believes everything we do is a part of a connected ecosystem of technology, and if you are not a part of that then you are at a major disadvantage. James describes the fast pace of change by arguing if you don’t use digital skills for one day, you end up 5 or 6 days behind everyone else. These people, including many veterans, can struggle from issues such as not being able to afford devices or an internet connection, to lacking the digital skills necessary to then use them. The pandemic we have faced has only accelerated these issues as even more of what we do has become digital.

Some veterans, have to go back to the very basics of learning the internet, or how to use a smart device. The government does make available a significant amount of funding to help educate those lacking in digital skills, including billions of pounds available to businesses through apprenticeship programmes. Educating people makes sense for business expansion at a multinational level too. An estimated 20% of UK residents are not connected and so if businesses train these people, they increase their pool of potential customers. James Murphy uses the veteran programmes run by Microsoft and AWS to highlight the fact that it is a good business model to provide free training of the tools they offer. Yet despite this, companies still view it as a form of charity work than a business plan.

The Positive Transformation Group works to encourage businesses to provide training opportunities and to support veterans and others who lack digital skills to teach themselves. They do this through three core methods. Firstly, they collaborate with anyone who has the resources or ideas about how to improve digital poverty through their Positive Transformation Initiative. Secondly, they provide access to government funding for businesses to upskill employees. Thirdly, they create businesses that are commercially sustainable and charitable, from starting new companies, working with large organisations, and merging companies that can collaborate effectively. Recently, Dan has been trialling a recruitment service for organisations that will help companies reduce their recruitment bill. In exchange they must sign a behaviour charter, promising to take on employees from disadvantaged backgrounds, including veterans and digitally poor people.

Dan has also started the Dream Bigger Initiative to bring exceptional people in front of groups of regular people who may benefit from hearing the importance of a positive mindset in difficult circumstances. Guest speakers include Steve Murphy, a DEA agent tasked with capturing Pablo Escobar, and Harriet Green, ex-chairman and CEO of IBM. James points out that veterans leaving the military often struggle with a lack of confidence because they can go from being very good at what they do to going back to an entry level role. They also have to manage the culture changes of returning to civilian life. Dan explains that in the future the Dream Bigger Initiative will invite more speakers who have served in the military to talk about the barriers they faced when going to work in the private sector again.