Mark Walker, Head of Marketing & Communications at AbilityNet, and organiser of the Tech4Good Awards, gives us the lowdown on the awards and their history.
Who started the awards and why?
BT and AbilityNet started the awards in 2011. We were looking for stories of how tech could be used for good, but there was very little focus on it and examples were hard to find. We realised there was a gap in the market, and had the idea to create an awards process that recognised and celebrated this. At the time it was quite a novel idea, but it’s definitely caught the wave of interest, and now we’re seeing many more examples and initiatives in the public eye.
Why are the Tech4Good Awards important?
We get over 200 entries into the awards every year – all wonderful examples of people creating tech for social good. This alone shows there is an important level of activity going on that needs to be reflected, endorsed and given credibility. People are putting a huge level of effort into their projects, and the awards celebrate this quite specifically – as well as help them to find each other, work together and inspire others to do the same thing.
How have the awards changed and developed over the years?
The categories of the awards have changed to be more focused on outcomes. At the beginning we were looking at the tech involved, and now it’s the social good that really drives us. We want to hear about people’s stories as much as the technical innovation. Where we had six categories at the beginning, now there are ten – and you can see this change of focus in the new awards, such as the Diversity Award and the Ageing Society Award. These centre on the changes in society we need to think about and how tech can promote, endorse and support them.
How has the profile of the awards changed over the years?
Our profile has increased greatly since the start of the awards. At the beginning we were a bit of a lone voice, but now there are more awards around which celebrate the same thing. This is really satisfying as it shows we are in the right place – helping to champion and promote great causes – and that others recognise they can do the same. That’s what we want more of.
It still gives me a kick when people tell me they are glad the awards exist and they are excited to see who wins. As our profile increases, the reputation and credibility of the awards has also gone up which adds even more value for our winners.
What is your favourite part of the awards?
I love seeing the continued and ever increasing demand for the awards to happen.
There is always such an incredible variety of entries and it’s so exciting to see them come in. The judging sessions are where it really comes together. We get to see amazing connections between brilliant people with hugely different interests, skills and knowledge. All grappling with the hardest of questions – how to decide who is to win. Sometimes they decide straight away, but more often than not there is much debate and discussion – which for me really captures the spirit of Tech4Good.
I also love the awards ceremony itself. We use glow-sticks to vote and have a chocolate fountain, which helps to keep the atmosphere relaxed and fun. Everyone wants to win, of course, but they also there to enjoy themselves, support each other, network and make connections.
We work hard to ensure that everyone takes something away from the awards.
The 2019 Tech4Good Awards are now open for nominations.