Kootenay Association for Science and Technology's Tech Resiliency Program, one of the ways they provide free help to Kootenay businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo submitted.

KAST helps Kootenay businesses navigate into digital realms amid pandemic

Kootenay Association for Science and Technology provide one-on-one help for free

Since the onset of the pandemic, countless businesses have had to transition their operations into a more digital realm and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) has helped many businesses in the area with that process, free of charge.

According to a press release, KAST partnering with the BC Tech Association enabled them to provide one-on-one support to non-tech businesses in the Kootenays for free.

They held their first Virtual Connection Day in May, 2020 and due to the high level of interest, they offered four more in July, September, October and January.

They then also partnered with Basin Business Advisors, Columbia Basin Trust and Community Futures Central Kootenay to further expand the region throughout the region. Businesses were able to apply to these Virtual Connection Days to get free one-on-one mentorship with a tech expert, to guide them through fields such as digital marketing, ecommerce, working remotely and cybersecurity.

Businesses were able to learn new tools they could employ to ensure they could navigate successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic from tech experts, many of whom have backgrounds as tech consultants or digital service providers.

For example, these experts provided insight on how to reach customers or 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 of KAST. “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, 2020 KAST further developed their program by launching the Digital Economy: Rapid Response and Resiliency (DER3) Program, developed by Innovate BC and funded by Western Economic Diversification.

This program has helped 231 small to medium-sized businesses, from a wide range of sectors, to either enter or expand in the digital economy.

KAST said the DER3 program has helped Kootenay businesses shift their approaches to be more profitable, expand into new markets, tackle new opportunities and respond to the many complex challenges presented by COVID-19.

“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,” Smillie said.

“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.”

The Tech Resiliency Program was designed specifically for Kootenay tech startups and companies that were impacted by the pandemic. Again, theses businesses were able to get intimate coaching in the specific areas they most needed guidance with.

According to the release, businesses most sought help in five main areas: websites, digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), business strategy and back of office systems or bookkeeping.

You can learn more about KAST at www.kast.com



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

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