Around $250,000 (£205,000) has been awarded to five start-ups dedicated to tackling the “largest unaddressed disability” in the world – poor vision.
Vula Mobile won the inaugural Clearly Vision Prize, set up by philanthropist James Chen, for its work using an app to connect primary healthcare workers with specialists – meaning people in remote areas are able to receive basic eye tests.
Here are the start-ups recognised at the awards and the work they’re doing to help the 2.5 billion people across the world who still suffer from poor vision.
1. Vula Mobile
Through the Vula app, health workers can take pictures of a patient’s eyes, send them through to a specialist and receive advice within minutes.
The app now connects rural healthcare workers with not just eyecare specialists, but nine different types of specialists.
The South African start-up was awarded $100,000 (£82,000).
2. The Folding Phoropter
When going for an eye examination you’ll be asked to look through different lenses and read letters projected on to a wall in the distance. But as you can imagine, in a lot of countries around the world getting access to this equipment is tricky.
That’s where the Folding Phoropter comes in. It does the same job, but it’s built using origami.
For its second place award, the start-up received $50,000 (£41,000).
A lot of the technologies needed to help people with their vision already exist, but in a country like India where the majority of people live in villages outside of the major cities, getting these technologies to the people who need them can be difficult.
Essmart takes all kinds of essential technologies and delivers them directly to communities, and received $25,000 (£20,500) for its achievements.
4. Maza Transport
Similarly, just as technology needs to reach rural communities in order to save and improve lives, people need to be able to get to hospitals and healthcare centres. That’s what Maza does in Ghana.
The company leases motorised tricycles to drivers in remote communities at discounted prices, in exchange for them being on call for any urgent healthcare emergencies twice a week.
With the $5,000 (£4,100) Maza won as a runner up in the Clearly Vision Prize, the start-up plans to offer “last mile” delivery for vision screening and correction services for eye health institutions in Ghana that can’t afford to cover the full logistical costs.
5. Smart Focus
This Stanford University spin-off start-up says uncorrected vision affects 30 million children in rural China, stopping them from learning to their full ability.
But working with Luxottica OneSight, Smart Focus has developed eye care clinics that have so far helped up to one million people.
“The problem of poor vision has gone unnoticed for too long,” the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport said after the awards were handed out.
“It’s astounding that 700 years after glasses were first invented there are still 2.5 billion people across the world without access to something as simple as eye screening or a pair of glasses. The Clearly campaign, and the finalists we have awarded tonight, have the potential to solve that global problem.”