Technology can transform lives. That’s why for the past nine years the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards has recognised organisations and individuals who use digital technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place.

In this year’s challenging geopolitical climate it has never seemed more important to celebrate the wealth of charities, businesses and volunteers across the UK that harness the power of technology to benefit the community.

We couldn’t do it without our partner BT and our other amazing sponsors.

Here are just some of the reasons this year’s awards blew our minds.

1. The awesomeness of Lost Voice Guy

Lost Voice Guy sitting and talking to Mark WalkerThis year AbilityNet gave a one-off Awesome Award to celebrate someone who has created a real impact in the public understanding of the role of technology in transforming the lives of disabled people.

Disabled comedian Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, received the Awesome Award from Tech4Good organiser Mark Walker. Lee who uses a tablet to deliver his stand-up routines, is proof that you don’t need a voice to leave people speechless.

Lee has cerebal palsy, which affects his ability to speak and he uses a voice synthesizer for his comedy routines. He has raised the profile of people living with disabilities since winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2018.

He has since toured the UK, including the Edinburgh festival and written his first book Lost Voice Guy, I’m only in it for the parking.

2. Nine-year old Mihika and her Smart Stick

Mihika Sharma receiving her award

Inspiration struck Mihika Sharma when she was just five years old. She and her Mum were helping a blind lady cross the road.

She forgot to mention a step and the lady almost tripped.

The incident upset Mihika who decided to make a Smart Stick to help people walk by themselves.

She knew a lot about technology from sitting with her brother Arnav (a former Tech4Good Award winner) and watching him work with sensors. Mihika sketched her first design and entered into the Primary Engineer Leaders Award competition.

Four years on she is a worthy winner of the Tech4Good BT Young Pioneer award 2019. Age 9 she is one of our youngest winners to date and is proof that age is no barrier to innovation.

The Bluetooth-enabled Smart Stick has smart sensors to detect obstacles and a water sensor to detect puddles. The stick is made by 3D printing and can be adjusted to an individuals’ height.

It also has LED lights so people can see it in the dark.

The Tech4Good Awards, like Mihika, is now in its ninth year. Previous BT Young Pioneer winners include a project to reduce water wastage worldwide, and a technology aid for children with dyslexia.

Find out how to adapt your tech if you’re living with a visual impairment.

3. People’s generosity in supporting Tech4Good

MeeTwo team receiving their awardFor the first time we’ve partnered with Crowdfunder, the UK’s top crowdfunding site, which is powering the Tech4Good People’s Award.

We’re humbled by the generosity of supporters who’ve donated almost £40,000 collectively. People have donated to amazing causes ranging from Help MeeTwo raising cash to support boys who self-harm, Mihika’s Smart Stick for blind people, and solar-powered internet hubs in Uganda.

MeeTwo a social media platform to support teenagers was the winner of the People’s Award. It also scooped the Tech4Good Connected Society Award, sponsored by Samsung.

4. Crowning our own King of Scotland

Chris Grant receiving his awardWe were delighted to see AbilityNet Area coordinator Chris Grant pick up the Do It Life Digital Volunteer of the Year Award at this year’s prestigious Tech4Good Awards.

He has driven a volunteer recruitment drive in Scotland and helped hundreds of disabled people with IT despite his own ill-health.

Chris, 27, is affectionately known as “King of Scotland” after recruiting 25 volunteers to deliver IT support to people living with disabilities, with another 25 in the pipeline.

The team, which Chris manages, has provided telephone, remote and in-person support free of charge to 137 disabled and older people – a 500% increase on last year.

A networking champion, Chris makes daily contact with volunteers, potential volunteers, clients, local organisations and more.

Chris does all this despite his own ill-health.

On Boxing Day 2015 he was rushed to a hospital, and later diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and has since had six operations as a result of his condition and has suffered depression. Chris is currently unable to work but loves volunteering.

He has devoted an estimated 1400 hours to helping others from the age of 16, including two stints with local radio stations and as a football manager, and referee.

“I don’t like seeing other people struggling,” he says.

He loves volunteering with AbilityNet and “shudders to think” where he’d be without it.

AbilityNet wouldn’t be able to help people without volunteers like him.

5. Glowstick voting selects Beam as the Winner of Winners Award

Seated audience waving glow sticks in the airGlowstick voting has been a highly popular feature of the Tech4Good Awards ceremony from the start.

This year the audience’s votes went to Beam.

Beam, the winner in the Community Impact Award, crowdfunds employment training for homeless people.

Founder Alex Stephany, was inspired to build Beam after meeting and getting to know an illiterate homeless man who wanted to learn to read. After buying him tea and socks, he wanted to do something that would truly change his life. Beam was born.

Founded in 2017, the platform crowdfunds skills and training to help homeless people to turn their lives around.

While Beam was crowned Winner of Winners choosing winners from each category’s amazing finalists was a near impossible challenge for our judges.

Find out more