DIGITAL technology has the power to transform lives, according to an Oxford charity.
With this in mind, Nominet Trust has awarded £25m in eight years to people using tech to solve social problems.
From its offices on Oxford Science Park, the Trust supports projects described as ‘tech for good’ with mentoring as well as cash.
Nominet Trust director Vicki Hearn said: “We see how amazing the power of technology is when it comes to tackling social and environmental challenges.
“We are looking for people using tech for social benefit, instead of just making money.”
As a charitable foundation set up by Nominet, which runs the UK’s official internet country code domain .uk, the Trust does not fund ventures with the aim of making a profit.
Ms Hearn explained: “We can be more intrepid in the way we invest.
“Commercial backers would be looking for a return but for us, the main success is whether a venture has continued to thrive two years on.”
Typically, projects given funding by Nominet Trust to get them off the ground go on to win more funding from investors, or other charitable institutions.
Ami, an online venture aimed at tackling loneliness, received £50,000 from Nominet Trust last July.
Led by Hythe Bridge Street-based Oxford Computer Consultants, it uses sophisticated software to connect volunteers with people needing one-to-one companionship and support.
It works with 15 local voluntary groups, including Homestart to connect young mothers and Oxfordshire Association for the Blind finding volunteers to escort blind people to medical appointments, or help with form-filling.
Ami project manager Lois Muddiman explained: “Loneliness is not just something which affects older people, it is right across the board.
“For instance, when you have a new baby, it can be an isolating experience.
“But although there are people with time to spare and who want to help, the two groups don’t know how to find each other, which is where technology like this comes in.”
Housing association and developer A2Dominion is also using Ami to connect residents of 89 households in Bicester’s eco-town Elmsbrook.
Ms Muddiman explained: “Residents will have a tablet which shows when the next bus is due and monitors energy use but that will also give them access to Ami.
“This will help young mums find other young mums to meet for coffee, link football fans so they can go to a match together, or put newly retired people in touch with each other.”