Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading ‘tech for good’ funder, has named telemedicine charity Virtual Doctors in the 2016 NT100 – a global celebration of the year’s 100 most inspiring social innovations using digital technology to drive social change around the world.
NT100 plays a valuable role each year in inspiring those with the influence and resources to accelerate the adoption of tech for social good. It brings together entrepreneurs, innovators, NGOs, charities, technologists and others to share knowledge, experiences and skills and introduce social change on a global scale. Projects featured in the NT100 have wide-ranging purposes, from democratising access to quality education and healthcare, to connecting minority communities and evoking empathy.
The 2016 NT100 was selected from 700 projects discovered this year through a combination of research and public nomination. Shortlisted projects were reviewed by Nominet Trust and a panel of partner organisations including: Big Lottery Fund, Cancer Research UK, Comic Relief, Nominet, Oxfam, Telefonica O2 and Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.
Virtual Doctors provides a free telemedicine service, utilising mobile and internet technology, directly into rural and remote areas of Africa. Using bespoke software delivered through handheld devices, developed by a team of volunteers from Landmark Information Group, the medical professionals in remote clinics are connected to volunteer doctors in the UK, and can seek advice to aid diagnosis and learning. As a result patients are treated on site and not referred to distant hospitals which can involve long and uncomfortable journeys, often on foot. The service is currently delivered in 20 rural health centres and two district hospitals in Zambia, with plans to expand to at least two other countries in the region in 2017.
This year the NT100 gives special recognition to ‘Everyday Tech Heroes’ – the inspirational people who have first-hand experience of the challenges they are tackling with tech. The Virtual Doctors Tech Hero is the charity’s founder and executive director Huw Jones. A safari guide in the 80s and 90s, Huw witnessed a local tragedy and felt helpless to deal with it. He knew that if earlier medical intervention had been available, the life of a mother and her unborn baby would have been saved. After talking to medical professionals in Africa and Europe who were willing to help but could not work in rural Africa, the concept for a telemedicine initiative was born and in 2008 the Virtual Doctors was launched.
“The Virtual Doctors service is at the intersection of health and technology,” says Huw. “It’s still early days in our development but we know the service has already saved lives. With the right resourcing this is very scalable and we could not do this at all without the support of our kind donors who fund 100% of our income. We are delighted to be recognised by such a prominent platform as NT100, and it’s great to be part of the social tech 100 family this year. The whole VDrs team are Tech Heroes – those who fund our work, our supporters and hardworking volunteers and those who have helped in its development. I want to give particular thanks to the volunteer development team, enabled through Landmark Information Group, who have given up hundreds of hours of their personal time to create our bespoke software. Without them our telemedicine technology simply would not work!”
“It is truly humbling to see so many remarkable people from all walks of life embracing digital technology as a force for social good,” said Vicki Hearn, director of Nominet Trust. “We hope the Virtual Doctors’ well-deserved inclusion in the 2016 NT100 provides a valuable stepping-stone for their inspiring example. With a bright idea, the right tech tools and a powerful desire to change the status quo, everyone has the potential to make a stand against the world’s most pressing social challenges. The NT100 seeks to champion the pioneers doing just that, in the hope that it inspires others to follow in their footsteps.”
The 2016 NT100 projects are hosted on the Social Tech Guide, the world’s largest interactive database of tech for good, which now showcases almost 1700 ventures.
Virtual Doctors is a charity providing sophisticated yet easy to use telemedicine software for rural health workers in Zambia.