Assistive Technology 2030: technical research
AT2030 (Assistive Technology 2030) brings together partners who haven’t traditionally focused on assistive technology (AT), with experts, innovators and AT users to experiment with new ideas and thinking.
AT isn’t short on innovation - it’s short on business models that work. AT is currently too expensive in low- and middle-income countries and often unavailable due to market failure. Lack of access to even basic items like eyeglasses, hearing aids and walking sticks can have serious long-term implications for children and adults.
Funded by UK aid AT2030 tests ‘what works’ to improve access to life-changing Assistive Technology (AT) for all.
GDI Hub's Academic Research Centre provided academic research and technical expertise on four Product Narratives undertaken by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). The reports explore the supply and demand of key AT with the aim of helping to identify opportunities for AT2030 and others to test innovative models of 'what works' to improve access to Assistive Technology with the potential to reach scale, through innovative products, new service delivery models and local capacity.
- Hearing Aids
- Digital Assistive Technology
Assistive Tech Impact Fund
It is estimated that at least 135 million Africans are without access to much-needed Assistive Tech (AT) solutions. The Assistive Tech Impact Fund (ATIF) is changing the prospects of innovators in this space, providing up to £200k of grant funding alongside expert-led venture-building support to facilitate the growth of the AT sector in Africa.
Successful entrepreneurs will benefit from GDI Hub Academic Research Centre technical expertise to maximise their chances of success, this could include investigating cheaper production methods and conducting user testing in the field. Researchers will observe the process, from pipeline applications through to portfolio businesses, exploring barriers and using quantitative research to map growth so learnings can support the maximisation of impact.
AT2030 data portal
The World Health Organisation (WHO) identified a need to collate health and medical populations surveys, going back over the past twenty years, to find out what research has been done on assistive technology. GDI Hub Academic Research Centre conducted a systematic review of 14,000 studies of which only around 500 contained meaningful data. Following an initial scoping, surveys were narrowed down extracting data from the most valuable 200 surveys. The next step is to create an interactive map for AT designers and manufacturers.
Africa’s first Assistive Technology Accelerator Innovate Now is a start-up accelerator that provides early stage AT companies across Africa with an intensive 12-week curriculum, as well as business connections and a LiveLab to support with the testing and scaling of ideas. GDI Hub's Academic Research Centre carries out qualitative and quantitative research to identify trends and challenges, as well as providing expertise and knowledge to support the accelerator programme, curriculum, toolkit and models. Innovate Now has just entered it's forth cohort.
Prosthetic research: thermoplastics
Amparo is a prosthetic socket manufacturer in Germany using low temperature thermoplastics to develop sockets that can be heated and fitted with a heat gun in a single session - while also being able to be reheated and remoulded when required. Standard prosthetic fittings takes numerous visits, are labour intensive and require a highly trained profession with access to a workshop. The Amparo solution provides opportunity for low and middle income countries, where access and infrastructure may be limited.
GDI Hub's Academic Research Centre helped Amparo expand into low and middle income countries, introducing them to local prosthetic manufacturers and clinics in Mombassa (Associate for Physically Disabled in Kenya) and Kijabe (Cure Hospital), as well as supporting the protocol for clinical trials and training clinicians on the collection of data and running of tests. Amparo is now working on a new product specifically for LMICs.
Prosthetic research: digital fabrication
GDI Hub Academic Research Centre has been researching alternative digital fabrication techniques for prosthetic components to find the most practical solutions for Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). This includes 3D scanning of the patient’s stump to get a digital geometry, which can then be moulded and shaped with software, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) where a block of material is carved, a positive mould is created and rectified using software. This approach is widely used in high income countries but both the machines and materials are prohibitively expensive for LMICs.
While 3D printing of sockets can be a viable solution, the types of printers most suitable for LMICs create barriers and challenges. Research continues.
GDI Hub Academic Research Centre has three projects currently underway, two linked with the French global society of mobile producers (GSMA) and one between UCL and the University of Nairobi.
As part of this mobile based work we have investigated how people with disabilities in LMICs use mobile phones across two continents at different ends of the development spectrum - Kenya (good tech infrastructure) and Bangladesh (lower income, late to start). Conducting a large scale survey of 1000 people in each country (800 with disabilities, 200 without) alongside GSMA we looked at access to and use of mobile phones, covering the types of phones they owned, how they use them and any barriers they had in terms of access to basic services, with a particular focus on the use of mobile money services.
Alongside the University of Nairobi we explored mobile phone use in informal settlements, specifically in Kibera - a large slum in Nairobi, to understand what mobile phones mean in this social context (considering most were basic phones, not connected to the internet). A focus of this work was around people with visual impairments and wheelchair users, and what mobile phone use meant for them.
Working alongside not for profit media company called Shujazz, we explored innovative ways to tackle stigma around disability in East Africa. Based on the simple idea - that if you normalise disability you slowly start to change minds and, subsequently, behaviour - we followed a process of qualitative and quantitative research before and after a set of creative campaigns ran across social media, a magazine, radio station and events aimed at young people. Through Shujazz extraordinary reach (over half of Kenyan youth are connected as well as a third of youth in Uganda and Tanzania) we were able to convey important messages engaging young people in conversations to shift attitudes and change behaviour in an effective and innovative way.
GDI Hub Academic Research Centre assessed two types of stigma - people without disabilities misunderstanding and misjudging the needs of people with disabilities, and self stigma where people with disabilities start to believe what others are saying and therefore self-limit. Shujazz social media was used to track feedback and attitudes, as well as helping people with disabilities to access AT and services.