Innovation

Google awards over $5 million to Australian non-profits tackling critical social problems with technology

Dinushi Dias /

Google has granted 10 Australian non-profit organisations over $5 million for their innovative use of technology to save human lives and the planet.

At the Google Impact Challenge held in Sydney, the George Institute for Global Health, Centre for Eye Research Australia and Hello Sunday Morning won $750,000 each for critical health management solutions.

Read more: Meet the entrepreneur who scored $50,000 in three minutes for her app to help teenage girls learn about business

Dr Clara Chow from the George Institute for Global Health was awarded for her project TEXTCARE, an SMS-based service for people with chronic disease.

“It’s a highly personalised support service to help patients change their lifestyles and hopefully take their treatment,” Chow tells StartupSmart.

Chow says many of these patients struggle to find the right information about their health problems and fail to fully understand how treatment and lifestyle choices can affect them.

“It’s hard to give personalised support, customising information on patient characteristics,” she says.

The aim is for TEXTCARE to be able to solve this. And with one in two Australians living with chronic disease, Chow says the judges saw how important this service is for the community.

“They could see the potential, they could see the need,” she says.

With the funding grant and support from a tech leader like Google, Chow is positive her team will be able to really commercialise and scale TEXTCARE so it gets into the hands of those who need it.

“Our aim is to get to 100,000 patients with chronic disease,” she says.

“We’d like to achieve it within 24 months.”

Hello Sunday Morning general manager Jamie Moore says the organisation’s app combines information, data and experience gathered over nearly seven years with 100,000 clients.

Using these insights, the Daybreak app is being designed to actively help people change the way they drink.

The comprehensive app will let users access things like cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational interviewing, peer support and a secure messaging chatline.

“The money from Google is specifically for machine learning and reinforcing the social networking part,” Moore tells StartupSmart. 

These developments will mean users of the app can get personalised information and curated stories that match where they are at in their recovery and help keep them on track.

The winners were chosen by a judging panel comprising philanthropists Lucy Turnbull and David Gonski, as well as CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall, professional athlete Layne Beachley, who created the Aim For the Stars Foundation, Google.org director Jacqueline Fuller, Google executive Alan Noble and television reporter Melissa Doyle.

The public was also invited to vote in a people’s choice award that saw more than 250,000 Australians vote.

Because the voting was so close, both the Nature Conservancy Australia and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation won $750,000 grants.

The remaining finalists didn’t leave empty-handed with Google awarding them $250,000 each.

“We were all impressed with each other’s ideas,” says Chow.

The innovative ideas coming to life: 

  • Hello Sunday Morning: Developing a personalised support app for people suffering with alcohol problems.
  • Centre for Eye Research Australia Limited: Creating a self-assessment system for Australians in remote areas to check and manage the health of their eyes.
  • The Great Barrier Reef Foundation: Creating an autonomous robot that can monitor, map, manage and preserve coral reef ecosystems.
  • The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation: Developing community-driven literacy apps to preserve indigenous languages.
  • Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA): Building an information repository for greater transparency on emissions released by the shipping industry.
  • Nature Conservancy Australia: Using mobile technology to protect fish stocks and coastal communities around the world.
  • Justice Connect: Developing a web portal to connect people and communities with pro bono legal services.
  • World Vision Australia: Creating a network of heat-sensing fire detectors for use in Bangladesh.
  • The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre: Developing a smartphone app that will enable parents to identify childhood autism.

This article was first published by StartupSmart.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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