GippsTech is the brainchild of Elene Kelareva who was inspired to set up the organisation as she saw the decline of the mining industry in the Gippsland area and the impact of that decline on the community.
“My husband is from the area and has been working there for seven years so we’ve had a close view of the effect of job losses on the local community. For me, coming from a tech industry I’m used to seeing the opposite situation – where jobs are growing and people can’t hire fast enough. So what I could see is that tech is a great industry for regional areas to promote economic growth, as a lot of jobs can be done remotely. But the skill level in regional areas is lower,” Elena said.
“When I left my job at Google, I decided to spend time figuring out if there’s an opportunity to promote economic development through the increased use of tech by regional businesses.”
GippsTech focuses on using digital and online technologies to empower individuals and local communities. Programs are built around tech and community engagement to equip people with the skills they need to start or expand their businesses, work more effectively, transition or level up their careers, and make their mark.
The aim of GippsTech is to help people, businesses, and local communities in the Gippsland region and beyond grow, innovate, and flourish. Elena told #SheHacksNews when she first started, GippsTech was a vague idea and she wasn’t entirely sure of the potential solutions.
“We did a lot of research and what we found was training alone isn’t enough to create jobs in regional areas. You can train people on tech skills but even with those skills, it doesn’t mean they have a job. That’s the most challenging aspect,” Elena said.
“When we looked at what worked for job creation in other areas, we found two approaches; the outsourcing model creates lots of jobs quickly, but the jobs are low skill and they could change as their priorities change. That creates a brittle economy still vulnerable to shocks.”
“The most robust approach is to focus on small business growth. If you help small business, they help create jobs and, if they can increase revenue, they end up having to hire more people to meet the demand. And that creates more robust economies long-term. The jobs are more varied, and the types of jobs created have more transferable skills.”
GippsTech ended up focusing on small business and growth in technology. Three months since launching, they’ve been running various training events for small business people and they’ve partnered with Girl Geek Academy to hold She Hacks in Warrigul.
“We start at entry level to help people get their business online. We’ve also started doing more detailed consulting work. First, we help businesses become more efficient, moving to digital tools. We help them get more customers by using digital marketing.,” Elena said.
“If a business is looking to build a digital product, ie an app, we can use our software management experience to help make sure their product is a success, meets customer expectations and is built with good quality.”
Elena said they also realise a big barrier for business in making the most of tech in regional areas is that there’s a lack of a supportive local community.
“Because business owners have lower tech skills and they don’t have a strong community of tech experts, we help them by surrounding them with other people who are going through the same process. It’s so important to have a community around you. It’s very isolating being in a regional area and, in a small town, if you don’t know anybody who works in tech, and you’re just following online courses, you probably don’t know anybody to ask for help.”
“We’re starting the first of our business women in tech meet ups, and we’ve started a newsletter featuring all the tech events in the area. We’ll also set up a co-working space in Gippsland, to bring industry experts and local small businesses together. That way, we will help build a community that will help all these businesses growth and thrive.”