Project Details

Vula Mobile

Diagnostic app for faster and more accurate medical referrals

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @vulamobile

  • Health
  • Social Exclusion
  • Internet
  • Mobile

68-year-old Nojongile lives in a picturesque village 1,300 kilometres from Cape Town. Yet for many years, she was not able to admire her surroundings or participate fully in village life because she suffered from cataracts. Although a simple 20-minute surgery could have restored Nojongile’s sight, the nearest hospital is four hours away and the waiting times stretched to years. 

According to the World Health Organization, 246 million people worldwide have low vision and 39 million are blind, even though 80% of visual impairment can be prevented or cured. It’s a frustrating problem that ophthalmologist Dr Mapham understands all too well. 

When volunteering in rural Swaziland, Dr Mapham drove eight hours to diagnose patients, who would then have to be transported for the same eight-hour journey to receive treatment. If weather or logistics prevented his journey, a patient was often misdiagnosed. As a result many patients lost out on badly needed care, while others would undertake costly journeys to travel to faraway hospitals unnecessarily. 

That’s why Dr Mapham created an app that allows health workers to capture basic patient and eye test information and securely share it with a specialist thousands of miles away. Called Vula – from the siSwati phrase for ‘open your eyes’ – the app works on any iOS or Android phone with a camera, and is proving to be an invaluable tool for the 400 nurses, doctors and health workers who have started using it since its launch in 2014. 

Vula has helped people like Nojongile restore their sight, and has been so in demand that cardiology, orthopaedics and burns diagnosis have also been added this year. The Vula team is now working on expanding its reach in Swaziland and Zambia. Find out more at

Image courtesy of Orbis - Giving the gift of sight

Last updated: 10th of August, 2016

Cookies on the Social Tech Guide

Social Tech Guide uses cookies to provide you with an enhanced user experience. To remove this message, please click continue.

Continue Learn more