Service deliveryAdult Social CareGovernment uses innovative tech companies to tackle rural isolation and loneliness

Government uses innovative tech companies to tackle rural isolation and loneliness

Five small tech-companies awarded contracts to tackle loneliness in Monmouthshire.

Five tech companies have been awarded contracts to use cutting-edge technology to tackle the problem of rural isolation and loneliness.

These businesses will create new technology platforms to match the supply and demand for transport in rural areas, as well as minimise the risk of digital exclusion among older people and those in more isolated, rural areas with limited connectivity.

Speaking at the Digital Leaders Innovation Conference in London, Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Dowden, said: “I am delighted that our funding for innovative tech companies is helping to tackle loneliness and rural isolation – to improve people’s lives and enable them to feel a part of their local community.

“The GovTech fund encourages firms to find innovative ways to address the big social problems we all face, including loneliness, plastic pollution and national security. Through emerging technologies, this fund will help to elevate British companies onto a global market while transforming the delivery of public services for people across the UK.”

Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development at Monmouthshire County Council, said: “In Monmouthshire, we are blessed with beautiful, rural surroundings and thriving towns. Yet the diversity of our landscape has its challenges, where journey times on public transport to local services can exceed two hours. That is why we are determined to address this issue to ensure people feel connected and part of the community.

“We are delighted to be working with innovative businesses who have developed a range of digital solutions for transport and rural isolation. Given the importance of the small business sector to the fabric of our country, it was great to see that sixty-five percent of the applications were from Welsh and UK-wide micro businesses with less than 10 employees.”

In November 2017, the £20m Govtech Catalyst Programme was launched to help fund innovative tech firms, to solve public-sector challenges through innovation and emerging technologies.

As part of a wider commitment to use technology to improve lives and transform the delivery of public services, the government will publish an innovation strategy in spring 2019.

The five projects

Monmouthshire County Council is working with five innovative businesses developing a range of digital solutions to combat loneliness.

These projects will include a range of digital technologies, like apps, websites, online channels and text services.  The five companies will explore how to integrate with existing channels such as a landline and voice responsive tech to ensure accessibility for all.  Vehicle tracker data, existing resources and open data sources will also be scrutinised to improve services and enhance wellbeing.

All five businesses will develop their ideas and test them with members of the community, the third sector and other organisations over the next three months. In spring 2019, two companies will be selected to receive further GovTech funding of up to £1m to develop their product ready to be launched.

The five companies are:

Box Clever Digital Ltd (BCD) aims to provide a community-directed platform to allow people to help each other by matching people based on a range of factors to enable them to enter into real-time conversations via a secure channel of their choice.

The Behavioural Insights TEAM (BIT) will develop a new digital service that brings together socially isolated individuals via a range of communication channels – maximising accessibility and connecting people with their peers, volunteers, as well as support workers and other healthcare professionals.

Zipabout will develop a mobility ecosystem to address local transport needs and tackle rural isolation and a lack of accessibility. They will do this by optimising capacity and resources meaningfully and connecting that to real demand to deliver a rural mobility as a service.

GPC Systems Ltd will be use digital technology to identify opportunities for people to engage in the community via digital and non-digital means. As an open solution, the project will promote collaboration through access to better information, supporting and enabling organisations to better serve the rural communities.

Enable International Ltd will tackle loneliness head on by providing a transport platform and communications system to manage mobility ‘as-a-service’ that will give people confidence to leave their house through accessible transport provisions.

The successful companies will retain all intellectual property and equity for what they develop.

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