By Ian Caveney, Head of Tech4Good, BT

Nominations have opened for the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards and the BT Young Pioneer award. The awards, that BT helped create with AbilityNet in 2011, celebrate and shine a light on tech that makes the “digital world accessible to all”.

Now in 2020, they are more relevant than ever. As we creep out of lockdown, it’s clear to everyone that technology can be a huge force for good in society.

Like so many people, tech has been helping me home school my kids and stay in touch with family and friends. For the most vulnerable in society, it’s truly been a lifeline for accessing vital services through to ordering shopping online.

So, what is the next tech invention that is going to help people in this increasingly digital world?

And wouldn’t it be amazing if it came from an inspirational young person setting out to make the world a better place?

Celebrating the next generation

Well, that’s where the BT Young Pioneer award comes in. We aim to uncover the brilliant tech ideas that tackle the issues young people care about most – from loneliness caused by the Coronavirus lockdown, to the damaging effects of climate change.

Each year the award, which is part of BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme, offers kids, parents and teachers a chance to showcase a child’s tech projects they’re proud of – whether they have been working on them at school or at home.

The best part is that the winner gets up to £10,000 in funding and the support of BT experts to help develop the idea and bring it to life.

Helping Mahika bring her invention to market

We’re still working with last year’s winner , eight-year-old Mihika Sharma. Her ‘Smart Stick’ helps blind and visually-impaired people walk more safely and with greater independence by using smart sensors, sounds and vibrations.

Mihika Sharma receiving her award on stage

Since winning the Young Pioneer award, I along with colleagues have been supporting Mihika to develop her solution.

What we realised together was that her invention needed market research to help us understand and unlock the full potential of her idea. We’re now working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Open Inclusion, a research agency, to do precisely that.

You may also have even seen Mihika starring in a BT advertising campaign – she has certainly made the most out of winning her award!

So, as you can see, one of the best parts of my job is that I can actually help people to develop their tech idea.

Enter now!

If you know of a great project that could benefit from the funding and the support of BT, submitting an award entry is easy and free.

Just use the form on this website.

Entrants just need to answer some simple questions about the problem their tech project solves, how they plan to develop their idea and why they think they deserve to win.

You can even add a video link to bring your project to life.

Anyone aged 9-18 years old is eligible to enter either as an individual or as a team of up to 5 people. Parents, guardians or teachers can enter on behalf of a child, and entries need to be submitted by the 30 June so don’t delay!

Each year I am blown away by the quality of the entries and of our finalists. I can’t wait to see what UK’s Young Pioneers come up with in 2020.

First published on LinkedIn by Ian Caveney, Head of Tech4Good, BT