We recap some of the amazing work being done to empower people through technology
The winners of the 2021 Tech4Good Awards have been announced. The awards, now in their eleventh year, were created by UK charity AbilityNet to recognise organisations and individuals who use digital technology to improve the lives of others.
This year’s winners include an app that makes shopping easier for people who are visually impaired, AI-powered research into rare diseases, and a new way for adults and children to publish their own storybooks.
Here, we recap the worthy winners, and look at how they have used technology to make the world a better place.
NaviLens is an app that enables visually impaired users to safely navigate public spaces by scanning large, colourful QR-like codes with their smartphone.
To use NaviLens, organisations only need to download, print, and place the codes in their area. They are already becoming more common in schools, museums, and on public transport.
For example, in New York subway stations, NaviLens codes allow users to access train times and be guided through stations by virtual arrows, without GPS or bluetooth. All this information is accessible, too, in 24 languages..
Biotechnology company Healx uses Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to discover and develop treatments for patients with rare diseases, such as chronic pancreatitis and muscular dystrophy.
The company created an AI-powered drug discovery platform called Healnet, which matches deep drug discovery expertise and patient insight to identify existing drugs that may be redeveloped, combined, and enhanced to treat rare diseases.
The traditional model of medicine development is lengthy, expensive, and works less well for diseases with a small patient population. Healnet accelerates the process to improve the chances of finding treatment for rare diseases more quickly.
Prescribe Culture’s Take 30 Together Virtual (T30TV) programme brings people together in a relaxed, social environment in order to reduce the sense of isolation and loneliness exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Created in response to lockdown, T30TV is an online, heritage-based initiative for those seeking non-clinical support for mental wellbeing.
Users were brought together and given the chance to share the heritage subjects that matters to them, while museums and heritage organisations were able to engage with international, intergenerational groups while their physical doors remained closed to the public.
North-west based carer service provider n-compass supports more than 40,000 carers every year, and its efforts did not halt because of the pandemic. Indeed, they were needed now more than ever.
Its Digital Carer Support programme used technology to support carers through its 24/7 Carers Community Network, which offered information, advice, and guidance over online platforms such as Teams, Zoom, and Facebook.
It also set up a Volunteer CHAT Line, with 24/7 peer support, matching volunteers with vulnerable carers for weekly (or more) calls to check their welfare. Online counselling was also provided.
Pat Maskell has been volunteering with AbilityNet since 2014, supporting older and disabled people with their technology at home, while also helping AgeUK as a Digital Inclusion volunteer.
At AbilityNet, Pat has manned the helpline and offered 1:1 support remotely, handling 1,800 enquiries over the last fifteen months, as demand for the charity’s support increased over the pandemic.
The Maker is a free, easy-to-use app enabling adults and children to create, publish, and share their own storybooks in a language of their own choice.
Since launching in 2014, the African Storybook Initiative has developed a platform of more than 2,000 openly licensed storybooks which gives children in Africa the opportunity to learn and read in their own language.
The Maker app can also be used offline, meaning it is suitable for areas where connectivity and electricity may be limited.
Peek Vision has developed a smartphone vision test app and data capture system which enables non-specialist users to screen for eye conditions and refer people to care.
Real-time data shows gaps in services and where people are dropping out of the health system, enabling NGOs and health providers to help as many people as possible, wherever they are.
Between 2013 and 2020, the Peek programme has helped more than 40,000 people receive eye treatment, while 350,000 adults and children has been screened using its technology.
Carbosoil has partnered with French organisation Gaiago to create a liquid prebiotic for farmers to stabilise their soil, which has become increasingly unstable due to climate change.
Farmers can add the product to the soil to improve its structure, in turn speeding up processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The prebiotic is designed to be practical to farmers, more cost-effective, and better for the environment.
Software engineer hiring platform eWorker connects companies with a global community of Black tech talent. It was created to help companies identify untapped talent and improve opportunities for engineers from under-represented backgrounds.
The platform reviews the credentials of applicants, evaluates their coding ability, and conducts an AI-powered interview to assess their skills, personality and values. It has now assessed more than 10,000 candidates.
Machine learning app FrankEinstein was created by 11-year-old Otto Sutton in order to provide users with automatic upcycling ideas.
The user can take a photograph on the app of anything they no longer want or use and the app responds with suggestions on how it can be upcycled, followed by a link to instructions on how to do so.
The app’s aim is to decrease waste by encouraging people to think creatively about what they might otherwise throw away.
Social enterprise Girls Into Coding (GIC) was co-founded by 13-year-old Avye and her mother Helene to redress the gender imbalance within the tech community.
Its aim is to “contribute towards a situation where girls and women are engaged in STEM activities, education & careers, equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers”.
GIC offers hands-on opportunities to girls aged 10 to 14 to explore coding, robotics, computing, and 3D printing, in the hopes of helping them feel more confidence and belonging in tech settings.
Mark Walker, Head of Marketing and Communications at AbilityNet, commented: “Each of our winners is making the world a more accessible, inclusive and better place through the power of technology – this is anything and everything from the innovative use of AI to community programmes.
“I can’t wait to see how the winners develop their projects and creations over the next year, with the help of our Tech4Good team providing guidance along the way.”
Watch this space.