One year into the pandemic and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) has helped hundreds of businesses in the Kootenays impacted by COVID-19 get help with digital transformation. (KAST photo)

One year into the pandemic and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) has helped hundreds of businesses in the Kootenays impacted by COVID-19 get help with digital transformation. (KAST photo)

Kootenay Association for Science and Technology looks back on year of helping businesses

One year into the pandemic and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) has helped hundreds of businesses in the Kootenays impacted by COVID-19 get help with digital transformation.

Partnering with the BC Tech Association was the first step in providing crucial one-on-one support free of charge to non-tech businesses in the Kootenays.

The first Virtual Connection Day took place in May 2020 and due to high interest, KAST offered four more in July, September, October and January 2021.

KAST eventually paired up with Basin Business Advisors, Columbia Basin Trust and Community Futures Central Kootenay to expand the program to include the entire Columbia Basin.

Businesses applied to talk to a tech expert in the areas of digital marketing, ecommerce, remote working and cybersecurity, for free.

Technology experts gave businesses personalized advice on tools and tactics they could adopt to ensure their company remained resilient in this uncertain time.

They were also able to advise them on new ways to reach customers and maintain business revenue.

“This was the first step of many in KAST helping Kootenay businesses overcome challenges due to COVID-19,” said Sean Smillie, executive director in a news release.

“Holding Virtual Connection Days with our partners is a great example of how we can work together as a community to build resilience, help local businesses with digital transformation and benefit the entire Kootenay economy. This is just one of many initiatives KAST has taken on to support both our non-tech and tech businesses locally.”

In September, KAST expanded their digital transformation efforts by delivering the Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency (DER3) program, developed by Innovate BC and funded by Western Economic Diversification.

The program helped 231 small to medium-sized businesses and organizations, in multiple sectors, enter or expand in the digital economy.

DER3 helped Kootenay businesses shift their business approach to be more profitable, expand into new markets or opportunities and respond to new challenges associated with COVID-19.

The DER3 team, made up of four local advisors – Shane Hainsworth, Andrew Zwicker, John Leishman and Clee Roy -provided personalized advisory services, coaching, mastermind groups and matched businesses with Kootenay tech consultants and local digital service providers.

“It was important for KAST to pull together a team that could relate to, and fully understand, the unique challenges businesses in our region are facing,” said Smillie. “Rural communities face very different challenges than major centres, especially when it comes to digital transformation. It was critical that our local Virtual Connection Day service providers and our DER3 and Tech Resiliency Program contractors could relate to the people they’re helping. Locals helping locals is the ecosystem we were after and we are thrilled it was successful.”

Technology