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Change starts at home

Change starts at home

December 19 2016

By Nominet Trust


The Nominet Trust 100 (NT100) is an annual celebration of the 100 most inspiring ways that digital tech is changing our world for the better. This year the NT100 also gives special recognition to ‘Everyday Tech Heroes’ — the people who have first-hand experience of  a problem, and have creatively used technology to overcome it.

To give you an idea of how these Everyday Tech Heroes are changing their lives and giving hope to others facing the same challenges they’ve faced, we are shining a spotlight on three organisations: Illuminum Greenhouses, the South-West Open Youth Orchestra and Nova Credit.

Illuminum Greenhouses

Illuminum Greenhouses is a budding company humbly rooted in the experience of two  students who tried to pay their university fees through their small-holding in Loitokitok at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  When a flood wiped out their entire tomato crop, Taita Ng’etich and Brian Bett decided to build a greenhouse to protect their investment.

Rather than purchasing an off-the-shelf greenhouse for £2,370, the two built their own using a mix of wood and metal for £1,000. Realising that other farmers might be interested in the same, they set up Illuminum Greenhouses – and took one more critical step towards helping farmers to protect their crops: they created a smartphone app called Smart Mobile Farmer, which monitors the water levels inside greenhouses. Eight out of 10 farmers in Kenya struggle to manage water use, especially when farm hands have left the drip irrigation system on for too long or forgotten to turn it on at the right time. The app is designed to prevent water loss from happening.

Taita and Brian now intend to rollout the Smart Mobile Farmer concept across Africa.


South-West Open Youth Orchestra

Mastering an instrument is a daunting task for anyone. But imagine mastering an instrument without being able to use your hands, or any of the body parts and postures traditionally associated with classical musicianship. For years, physically-disabled people have been excluded from the art and joy of playing music. But OpenUp Music is changing this with a suite of adapted instruments that are empowering disabled musicians.

OpenUp Music is the driving force behind  the South-West Open Youth Orchestra (SWOYO), the UK’s first disabled-led regional youth orchestra. Bradley Warwick is  a 21-year-old member of the orchestra with cerebral palsy. Bradley spent five years in the musical ‘wilderness’, for want of a suitable progression route to match his talent and meet his needs.

Then came the turning point. On the 5th June 2015, Bradley was invited to perform with OpenUp Music and members of the British Paraorchestra using a prototype of OpenUp Music’s new Clarion music software. Using technology that follows his eyes’ gaze, Bradley was able to play music with greater precision, control and expression than ever before. He is now a core member of the SWOYO, performing beautiful music together with other disabled musicians that use digitally adapted instruments as well as more traditional instruments (like blind pianist Ashleigh Turley).


Nova Credit

Meet the team of immigrants behind Nova Credit:  Misha Esipov, Nicky Goulimis and Loek Janssen. A team that knows exactly what it’s like start over financially when you come to a new country.

Every year, 15 million immigrants arrive on American shores and have no means of accessing credit. Yet they will need a credit score to let a flat, get a credit card or even hire a car. Misha watched his parents struggle to get credit when his family moved from Russia in the 1990s. Nicky and Loek found that even professional success abroad did not translate into credit when they came to the US for grad school.

They founded Nova Credit to change this. The team has developed the world’s first cross-border consumer credit reporting agency. The company’s technology collects credit information and credit proxies (like mobile phone billing receipts and records) into a single report. It then passes the report onto the lender so they can make an informed determination on whether to accept or reject a credit application.

Nova Credit is starting in India and Mexico, which account for roughly 21 million immigrants to the US every year – and could soon deliver borderless credit to immigrants to the UK, European Union, Brazil, Russia and China.

We need more heroes

Neither Taita, Brian, Bradley, Misha, Nicky nor Loek set out to be Everyday Tech Heroes. They had all come up against something holding them – and others like them – back and they creatively used technology to overcome it. But in doing so, they have smoothed over social and financial barriers for so many people who will use their services. And this year’s NT100 is full of examples of people who have used the tech at their disposable to change their own lives and others – nearly a third of the NT100 ventures features an Everyday Tech Hero (and we’ll be profiling many of them in the months to come!). We hope that by featuring these Everyday Tech Heroes, we inspire others to say, “I can do this too!” – and to look at their tech as a tool for helping to tackle the everyday problems they encounter.

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