Argyll student’s outstanding contribution celebrated with national award

John Frace

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Argyll College UHI student John Frace has been named at the Herald Higher Education Awards as the University Student who has made an Outstanding Contribution.

Judges were looking for someone who has inspired and motivated others or made efforts to improve student experiences and that of the local community, or in John’s case, the nation.

In March last year, John created Scotland’s Coronavirus Tracker website which has now attracted 1.5 million users, and at the height of lockdown had more than 1,000 people logging on every day for the 3pm update.

John’s Twitter following has exploded to 22,800 followers, including Professors Devi Shridhar, Jason Leitch, Linda Bauld, and the First Minister.

It is estimated that John has spent 1,500 hours (187 working days) over the past year on the site, whilst also keeping up with his full-time studies with the University of the Highlands and Islands.

His selfless efforts have helped to improve many people’s experience of the most challenging year most of us have faced.

On receiving the award  on Thursday June 17, John said: ‘This is a huge honour, it’s a bit overwhelming, and I want to thank everyone who’s supported the page. I’m so glad I’ve been able to help out and provide some clarity during this awful year.’

‘I have received countless messages from people saying how the page has helped to ease their anxiety or make informed decisions for their family, which makes me so happy to hear.’

Professor Linda Bauld, who attended the event, said about the website: ‘People all around the country have stepped up to contribute to the pandemic response but John stands out as someone who has gone above and beyond.

‘With his website he has provided easily accessible analysis and visualisation of coronavirus statistics from Scotland and the UK, alongside local data and international comparisons.

‘These data are publicly available but often difficult to navigate from official sources.

‘John has provided a vital public service, volunteering thousands of hours of his time to keep people informed.

‘I have a daily file for media interviews and consult John’s website every day as it is a one stop shop of information.

‘If I’m speaking to a regional radio station I can instantly find the figures for that area on his dashboard.

‘To examine which local authorities have had more or fewer cases in the past week I can find that in seconds on his ‘local data’ pages.

‘Plus to track progress with the vaccine programme his visualisations have been invaluable.

‘I am personally indebted to him for all he has contributed – as thousands of others around the country are.

‘I know he has a bright future ahead, and one day I look forward to buying him a cup of coffee in person.’

John, who is more widely known as @TravellingTabby, is currently in his third year studying for a Business and Management BA (Hons) with the University of the Highlands and Islands.

In 2020, he completed a HNC in Digital Design and Web Development with Argyll College UHI which he praises for his success of his Covid Tracker website.

UHI Principal and Vice-Chancellor Todd Walker said: ‘John is a remarkable individual. At a time when others were thinking of themselves, John was thinking of others.

‘John embodies the values of the university through his actions and leadership and sets an example and inspiration for others. We celebrate John for his innovation and selfless dedication.’