Last year we had the pleasure of Anna Bawden, Deputy Editor of Society Guardian and Education Guardian, join our panel of Tech4Good Awards judges. Following the judging process, Anna had this to say about digital inclusion and the difficult task of judging the Awards:
“How do you decide between the [Dispatch] app, which reduces the time taken for London Air Ambulance’s pilots to be dispatched to emergencies by two minutes, a portal and app helping people to work out if their drinking is risky and to get instant online help, and BuddyApp, a digital service helping mental health patients stick with their treatment?
That was my unenviable task recently as a judge of the Tech4Good Awards. For me, however, there were three standout winners. Startup Open Bionics has developed 3D printed bionic hands, which can be created in five days for £1,000 – far cheaper than the traditional £20,000-£80,000 price tag and half the weight, yet with a similar range of movement. It offers an affordable prosthetic to the millions of hand amputees worldwide who use a hook, or nothing at all.
“Other winners included a group of 14-year-old students at Stratford girls’ grammar school who built [I’m Okay], an app to support teenagers exploring their sexuality and gender.
In terms of sheer dedication and going beyond the call of duty as well as technical wizardry, Rachael Moat was a worthy winner of the IT Volunteer of the Year Award. Moat, principal clarinettist with Lancashire Chamber Orchestra, is also a music teacher who volunteers at Seashell Trust, a school for children with complex needs and severe learning difficulties, who often have little or no verbal language. Moat realised she could do more for them than play a tune. She programmed a Skoog (a squishy cube) with musical sounds to enable pupils to be active participants in her sessions, and then developed other customised technology for individual pupils. One student doesn’t like touching things or taking instructions and has a restricted diet, but loves music. So by coating a metal bowl in electric paint, Moat was able to develop a way for him to experiment with touch and taste. Every time he dunks his hands in the bowl when it is filled with water, custard or spaghetti, it plays music.
But for many, digital inclusion remains a pipedream. According to the Office for National Statistics, in May 2015, 27% of disabled adults had never used the internet, compared with 7% of non-disabled adults. And June 2015’s report by the Extra Costs Commission found that part of the reason disabled people typically face £550 in extra living costs is due to the lack of ability of many of them to shop around online. Too many sites are not accessible to those with disabilities.
The government’s digital inclusion strategy is a step in the right direction, but does not mention what it intends to do to force companies to make their websites more accessible. Matthew Hancock, the lead minister for digital inclusion, should look to Norway, where in 2013 the government passed regulations requiring all new websites to meet minimum accessibility standards by 2014 and all old sites to do so by 2021. The government should be developing apps to make public services accessible to all, not just the tech savvy.”
Our panel of judges are experts in tech and innovation. They read every entry for AbilityNet’s Tech4Good Awards, and pick the winners of seven out of the 10 Award categories. Tell them how you’re using technology to make the world a better place, and enter Tech4Good Awards 2016 from 15 March 2016.