Australian Red Cross backs ground-breaking technology solving humanitarian challenges

Australian Red Cross backs ground-breaking technology solving humanitarian challenges

2 May 2023

From a first-of-its-kind chatbot tackling racism to the ‘digital humans’ increasing access to sign language during emergencies, four cutting-edge projects have been announced by the Humanitech Lab innovation program.

Humanitech, pioneered by Australian Red Cross with support from founding partner Telstra Foundation, is providing four organisations with up to $100,000 in grant funding, capacity building, and support to pilot a project with communities across Australia.

Adelide Mutinda, Innovation Program Manager at Humanitech said these solutions represent some of the most cutting-edge applications of technology for addressing humanitarian and social issues.

“We’re thrilled to be able to fast-track the work of these start-ups through Humanitech,” said Ms Mutinda.

“What’s especially significant is that these projects are piloted alongside Australian communities - allowing us to deepen our understanding of what it takes to develop inclusive and ethical technology, and to share this knowledge with others.”

One of the four organisations Maya Cares has created a chatbot to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Black, and Women of Colour who have experienced racism. Through Humanitech, the Maya Cares pilot project will enable users to access culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing resources and services.

With one in six Australians affected by hearing loss, much-needed inclusivity and disability-focused start-up Kara Technologies has received funding to increase access to sign language in emergencies using "digital human" avatars. Kara Tech will pilot alongside Deaf communities, Red Cross’ Emergency Services team, and emergency management agencies in NSW to provide fast and on-demand Auslan during emergencies.

Hold Access, a First Nations-led start-up is using the funding to develop its digital platform, WUNA, to empower First Nations people and digitally excluded people to hold, access, and share their digital identity. In partnership with the Red Cross Port Lincoln Youth Development Hub, it will pilot with job seekers in South Australia.

Also, among the cutting-edge solutions is AirSeed, a company with the ambition to plant 100 million trees a year by using drone-planting technology to regenerate land at scale across Australia. AirSeed is piloting with flood-affected communities in Lismore, NSW with support from Australian Red Cross’ Emergency Services team.

Jackie Coates, CEO of Telstra Foundation says this program offers a genuine opportunity for ambitious startups to develop meaningful relationships with the community.

“These bold initiatives are made possible through the power of collaboration - the Lab offers others a model to use technology alongside the people who are impacted by it to create impact for people and the planet,” said Ms Coates.

The teams will spend six months moving through the program’s pilot stage, which features learning workshops led by subject matter experts, access to Red Cross expertise and collaboration, industry contacts, mentorship, and a network of peers.

More information on each of these organisations’ validate projects with the Humanitech Lab can be found here.

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