The National Theatre is among the winners at this year’s AbilityNet Tech4Good awards, which celebrates digital and technology innovations that support good causes. The arts charity has won the inclusive design award for its smart caption glasses, which helps those with hearing loss enjoy performances. The gadget works by creating a transcript of the dialogue and descriptions of sound that are displayed on the lenses of the glasses. Other winners include nine-year-old Mihika Sharma who was named BT young pioneer after inventing the Smart Stick, which helps blind and deaf people build up confidence to walk alone through alerts when obstacles arise. This uses phone GPS and Bluetooth within the stick to produce a system of vibrations.
This is the ninth Tech4Good awards, with this year’s judges including Charity Digital News writer Chloe Green. An award ceremony took place this week at the BT Centre, London.
Winners receive a year-long programme of support for their tech innovation. “Congratulations to each award winner and the other finalists for their success in creating tech that is genuinely making the world a better place for other people,” said AbilityNet Head of Marketing and Communications Mark Walker. “These awards celebrate their hard work and share their stories to inspire others, whilst recognising all entrants’ considerable efforts. “Judging the awards was a very tough task, with many worthy entries just missing out on awards. “As well as the recognition and credibility that comes with winning one of these awards, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2019 winners will also have the opportunity to access a year-long programme of support. “This programme of support is designed to help each award winner grow as much as possible after they win an AbilityNet Tech4Good Award. We now look forward to seeing how our winners and the other entrants progress in future as they go on to shape the world and help others by using digital technology.”
The community impact and winner of winners awards were handed to Beam, which crowdfunds employment training for homeless people using digital technology to help them improve their skills. Another to be praised was MeeTwo, which won the connected society and people’s awards, for its development of a peer support mental health app for young people. A full list of the winners is below.
The AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2019 winners:
ACCESSIBILITY AWARD – Sponsored by Microsoft Winner: Digit Music Control One, created by Digit Music, was developed in response to the need for a non-instrument alternative for severely people with disabilities to create music. The only product of its kind, it allows physically disabled people to create music without having to learn an entirely new physical skill.
AGEING SOCIETY AWARD – Sponsored by UnLtd Winner: Safe & Found Online Safe and Found Online is a social enterprise established by two long standing work colleagues in the social housing sector, Chris Cheshire and John Henderson. Safe & Found’s aim is to give users, their families and carers the peace of mind to know that should they be reported missing, the Police will be using the best information and technology they need.
BT YOUNG PIONEER AWARD Winner: Mihika Sharma – Smart Stick Mihika’s Smart Stick can help both blind as well as deaf people to build up confidence in walking alone and alert them about obstacles. It takes them to their destination using the Bluetooth and the phone GPS system – guiding them along the path using right and left vibrators according to the navigation instructions. This will help prevent injuries.
COMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD – Sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group and Good Things Foundation Winner: Beam Beam is a breakout tech for good that crowdfunds employment training for homeless people. Its innovative approach uses digital technology to remove financial barriers for the homeless community and allows them to improve their skills to get into well-paid work. Bringing together the public sector and the best of tech, Beam is partnered with the Mayor of London while being advised by tech luminaries.
CONNECTED SOCIETY AWARD – Sponsored by Samsung Winner: MeeTwo MeeTwo is a free, fully moderated, peer support mental help app. MeeTwo enables young people (aged 11-23) to talk about difficult things, and to help themselves by helping each other. Based on the latest psychological research, MeeTwo is innovative because it allows teenagers who have coped with difficult life events or mental health issues to transform those experiences into useful advice for others.
DIGITAL VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD – Sponsored by Do it Life Winner: Chris Grant, AbilityNet Chris Grant is AbilityNet’s Area Coordinator in Scotland, or “King of Scotland” as he is affectionately known by the central team. Since starting in May 2018, he has completely transformed their free services in Scotland, generating huge growth in the number of volunteers and the hours of free tech support provided to older people and people with disabilities.
INCLUSIVE DESIGN AWARD – Sponsored by Scope Winner: National Theatre The National Theatre’s Smart Caption Glasses system is an automated, always-on closed captioning service which pairs speech-following technology with smart glasses allowing patrons with hearing loss to attend any performance on any day. The system “listens” to what is being said or sung on stage and text is sent to glasses via Wi-Fi.
TECH4GOOD DIVERSITY AWARD – Sponsored by Nesta Winner: WhiteHat WhiteHat is a tech startup on a mission to create a diverse group of future leaders by building an outstanding alternative to university through apprenticeships. WhiteHat is transforming apprenticeships by developing high quality education and training that supports the needs of both employers and young people, underpinned by a thriving on and offline community.
TECH4GOOD FOR AFRICA AWARD – Sponsored by Comic Relief Winner: Jangala Jangala was developed as an internet solution to help refugees living in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais. Since this first implementation, it has developed into a social enterprise to connect the most vulnerable in the world in order to reduce isolation, promote human rights, deliver education and improve life chances.
TECH4GOOD Awesome AWARD Winner: Lost Voice Guy (Lee Ridley) Lee Ridley is an English stand-up comedian, performing under the stage name of Lost Voice Guy. Disabled since early life and unable to speak, he is the first stand-up comedian in Britain to use a communication aid in his routines. Lee won Britain’s Got Talent in 2018 and the BBC New Comedy Award in 2014. Lee’s other credits include America’s Got Talent: The Champions (NBC), Live At The Apollo (BBC Two), The Royal Variety Performance (ITV).
Tech4Good Special Award Winner: Dr Sue Black, OBE A Technology Evangelist and Digital Skills Expert, Sue was awarded an OBE for “services to technology” in the 2016 Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. She is now a UK government advisor, thought leader, Honorary Professor of Computer Science at UCL, social entrepreneur, writer and public speaker. Her current social enterprise #techmums is changing lives. #techmums teaches mums tech skills and builds their confidence encouraging them into education, entrepreneurship and employment.
TECH4GOOD PEOPLE’S AWARD – powered by Crowdfunder.co.uk Winner: MeeTwo MeeTwo is a free, fully moderated, peer support mental help app. MeeTwo enables young people (aged 11-23) to talk about difficult things, and to help themselves by helping each other. Based on the latest psychological research, MeeTwo is innovative because it allows teenagers who have coped with difficult life events or mental health issues to transform those experiences into useful advice for others.
WINNER OF WINNER’S AWARD – sponsored by Information Technologists’ Company Winner: Beam Beam is a breakout tech for good that crowdfunds employment training for homeless people. Its innovative approach uses digital technology to remove financial barriers for the homeless community and allows them to improve their skills to get into well-paid work. Bringing together the public sector and the best of tech, Beam is partnered with the Mayor of London while being advised by tech luminaries.