Collaboration Is Key: There's No Limit to the Good That Tech Can Do

01/06/2016 15:12 | Updated 01 June 2016


The object in the palm of your hand can change the world for good.

In the Dominican Republic, mobile software developed by Trek Medics is connecting remote villages without access to emergency services, to teams of volunteer technicians. By the end of this year, Trek will be able to reach one million people in crisis.

In hospitals in Rwanda, GPS-enabled smartphones are connecting healthcare professionals to fleets of start-up 'Zipline' drones that can deliver vital vaccinations and blood supplies in less than 40 minutes.

In Kenya, with the help of an inexpensive adapter and software start-up 'PEEK', healthcare workers can use smartphone cameras to take high-resolution retinal images that allow them to detect cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma.

These start-ups provide just a few examples of the enormous impact and potential of emerging new technologies in solving some of the world's greatest challenges.

Over the last decade, mobile phones have become a tool of incredible social change and progress in the developing world. Across Asia and Africa, they are giving aid workers and NGO's the tools to overcome the previously insurmountable problems of poor infrastructure and geographical remoteness.

However, in isolation there will always be a limit to the full impact these innovations can have.

The challenge facing the tech community today is to galvanise its full potential to tackle these problems, but on a genuinely global scale.

Take the problem of poor vision. Today, there are 2.5 billion people with poor vision and no means of improving it.

Current rates of poor vision are having a seismic impact on the economic and social development of countries around the world. One recent report found that rates of poor vision cost the global economy $3 trillion a year.

Poor vision prevents children from going to school; it inhibits adults from fulfilling their potential in the workplace and altogether stymies personal development and individual wellbeing.

Yet, there already exist a number of promising innovations that have the potential to radically improve provision of eye care across the developing world.

Startups like 'Peek' and 'Zipline' demonstrate what small teams of product designers and developers can achieve, however, if we're going to tackle the kind of challenges facing the developing world today, we need to replicate and amplify their success on a much larger plane.

In order to find actionable, scalable solutions to these global healthcare challenges, we must connect the work of technologists, supply chain experts, data scientists, app developers and leading start-ups.

In April we launched a global campaign - Clearly - that aims to rethink our approach to world vision. It's based on a fundamental belief in the limitless potential of exactly that kind of global collaboration.

Throughout the year, we are running a series of 'Clearly Labs' - events with a number of formats in Hong Kong, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, and London and beyond. At each lab, innovators within and outside the eye community will collaborate and apply their combined expertise and creativity, to imagine bold ideas and solutions to the problem of poor vision across the globe.

We are also running an ideas competition for entrepreneurs, with a prize of $250,000 USD in the form of seed funding and mentoring to get the best ideas off the ground and into labs, clinics and homes across the world.

When faced with a challenge of this nature and scale, we know the solution will not be simple.

However, we live in a world that has found cures for some of the most aggressive diseases known to man; we have created automobiles that can drive themselves and we are growing increasingly closer to putting mankind on Mars.

In an age of such rapid advance in healthcare, digital and technology, it's time we start to leverage the potential of our future industries to tackle the global problems that are so deserving our attention, creativity and investment.

HuffPost UK Tech is running a two-week focus on our Tech For Good campaign, which aims to highlight the technology that is driving social change and making a positive, long-lasting difference to our world. If you'd like to blog on our platform around this topic, email with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about.