Ask Kate Doodson if she’s an activist and she tells you – no. But a quiet activist? She’ll kind of admit to that.
Loads of people want a piece of @cosmickated, as she’s called on Twitter. Her enthusiasm, her crystal clear and friendly way of explaining the intricacies of IT, her in-depth knowledge and sharp mind, are all much sought after – from a Somerset Chamber of Commerce talk to lectures at Dartington for social entrepreneurs; from a free social media workshop for a community group to a Tech Without Tears project for parents of schoolchildren.
What Kate wants is business success – but what motivates her and Cosmic Ethical IT, is the concept of digital inclusion. Which is why Cosmic, run by fellow entrepreneur Julie Hawker and now a 12 strong and steadily growing company, is a fully fledged Social Enterprise. It means profits are ploughed back into projects that provide social gain and in this company’s case, that means making the IT world accessible to all.
Moved to Devon on a whim
Originally a trained civil engineer like her father, Kate worked in the field, including project managing the design and installation of a security system that won international recognition. The work led her to South Africa for a time, then back to England and the banking world, until on a whim she moved with her partner to Devon and found a job in IT.
“I had very little experience of it, but thought: ‘hey, I’ll give it a go.’ It was an easy transition, the logic and processes were a very natural progression.”
Then came parenthood, and Kate set up a small software business and worked for herself for ten years until she came across Cosmic, an ethical IT business.
“I thought: I want to be part of that, the whole ethical IT concept where you run a business not just for the primary aim of earning money. You can be an entrepreneur and successful, but you use that for a social purpose, which for us is digital inclusion. It’s fantastic to work in that environment.”
Kate is Business and Operations Manager and relishes working in an IT company run by women. The fact that it’s so unusual still, is astonishing to her.
Projects with maximum social impact
The company works with businesses, charities and third sector organisations and about half its work is core services that bring in the money, so that it can keep affording to deliver projects with maximum social impact.
Cosmic is set up as a Limited Company and has four commercial areas; web development, technical support, website hosting, and consulting and training – for which they deliver hundreds of courses each year on everything digital. They have a number of prestigious projects on the go, such as the rollout of Superfast Broadband in Devon.
“These are exciting times for social enterprise,” says Kate. “We are used to business models but increasingly, ethical consumers support a change in business models and a social enterprise can change people’s lives in ways that a charity or business can’t.”
Digital inclusion is essential in our IT age, Kate passionately believes. Vulnerable people will be hugely excluded if they are not IT literate – and statistics like 115,000 people in Devon who have never accessed the internet, concern her greatly.
It's all going to change
The future capability of IT is astonishing, she says. Superfast Broadband will provide a massive infrastructure delivering thousands of MB per second, making everything from cloud use to video meetings and TV on demand, the norm. We still have a way to go, but the infrastructure that is going in now will be the backbone to the changes for the future.
“It’s all going to change in a few years and no-one knows where it will go – rather like when the railways came.”
Making sure everyone can jump on board is what motivates Kate.
“We held a Gadget Show recently to show the amazing products there are and how they can be used to change lives. People were amazed by some of the things they saw and it was wonderful. I was speaking to a grandmother who was thrilled when she realised that with Skype she could see and talk to her granddaughter. I love it, it just blows me away...”
Personally, I’d call Cosmic Kate an activist – in the best possible sense.