Wayra meets the Emergency Services Volunteers - Abby Barton

When Billy D’Arcy invited me as a representative from Wayra (Telefónica’s start up accelerator), to join his Voluntary Emergency Services Round Table event on 24 February, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t realise O2 was working with the Voluntary Emergency Services.  And if I’m honest, I’ve never given what they do much thought.

After meeting them, I appreciate just how much we rely on them.  I now see a volunteer Blood Biker most days and I heard the Chancellor call out the incredible work they do when he made a Budget announcement to refund their VAT.

The Round Table gave me an opportunity to find out about who these amazing people are, what they do and how the organisations keep themselves afloat.  I heard first-hand about the challenges they face and where we could help.  There’s no doubt that our technology, infrastructure and experience could, and should make a real difference.

It’s clear that digital innovation could play a transformational role in the Voluntary Emergency Services. The infrastructure that supports them and is crucial to their operation is out of date.  This is where we can offer advice and support from our tech start-ups.  Wayra has invested in around 100 companies that the Voluntary Services could benefit from, for example RotaGeek.  Co-Founder Chris McCullough is an ex-A&E Doctor, so has experience of both public sector and the start-up world.  RotaGeek can provide a solution to one of the Blood Bikes biggest issues – scheduling the on-call drivers and their bikes.  They specialise in schedule design to make staff scheduling simple, faster and data-driven. It’s a system they’ve already implemented to our O2 stores, high street retailers and mission-critical scheduling for an Air Ambulance service (Kent, Surrey and Sussex).

We firmly believe sharing our expertise and innovation is a great way to support the volunteer organisations who are on the front line every day supporting the wider emergency services.

After meeting the Voluntary Emergency Services I realised we’d only just scratched the surface of the opportunities to help these organisations.  Through our Wayra Academy and wider Think Big programme, we have the opportunity to harness the power of young people that are brave, ambitious and most importantly, possess the digital skills that can help transform the way the Voluntary Emergency Services operate.

I want to thank the National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA), Community First Responders (CFR) the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, Lowland Rescue for opening my eyes to such an important part of our society.  Now we have the chance to tap into the entrepreneurial minds we have access to in the near future to continue to build community safety in a digital world.

Meet Abby

Abby Barton is Head of Business Development at Wayra, where she leverages the talent and opportunities within this huge corporate to accelerate the start-ups. She comes from Telefónica where she was Business Manager to the O2 Retail Director and prior to that was Head of  O2 Retail Finance. Abby has a strong commercial background, starting her career with 5 years as an accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers in both London and Sydney. She then chose Retail as her industry of choice and followed this with 7 years at Sainsbury Plc in various commercial finance roles, including Head of Commercial Finance for London and the South. Abby is a qualified ACA and Professional Coach and has a BA from Durham University in Geography and Anthropology.