The UK Government Teams up with Nesta to Tackle Isolation Through Innovation

In the age of social media, can tech help people to feel less socially isolated?

18.06.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Pedro Gabriel Miziara on Unsplash
Photo by Pedro Gabriel Miziara on Unsplash

In light of recent research that indicates that around 9 million people in the UK suffer from loneliness, and at the beginning of Loneliness Awareness Week, the UK government has announced that it wants to incentivise social tech innovation.

While technology and social media have become a cause for the increased cases of those suffering from mental health and social isolation, others believe that it can be harnessed in different ways to get people to make meaningful social connections that could make them feel less alone.

The UK government is beginning to take the problem of loneliness in the country very seriously after researchers and social neuroscientists found that the country’s loneliness epidemic often led people down a path to more serious mental health conditions such as obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction and depression.

In a move to show the government’s commitment to improving the problem, Prime Minister Theresa May created the role of Minister for Loneliness in January 2018 — a position now held by the Conservative Party’s Mims Davies MP.

“Loneliness is one of the biggest health challenges our country faces. It can affect anyone at any time and its impact is in line with smoking or obesity. But we can only begin to help one another if we feel able to understand, recognise and talk about it,” said Davies in an announcement yesterday.

Alongside a new Let’s Talk About Loneliness Initiative, and led by Davies, the Government is also investing £1 million in a Tech to Connect Challenge Prize.

The Prize, which will be designed and delivered by charitable innovation foundation Nesta, aims to find tech solutions to the problem of social isolation.

Charities and social enterprises are urged to apply as up to £500,000 will be up for grabs to incentivise social tech innovation. The £1 million prize will be split into £500,000 of business support from Nesta with the other £500,000 being awarded as cash prizes to the best entrants.

“We want to hear from any civil society organisation with a strong idea on how to make a meaningful difference to social isolation,” Tris Dyson, Executive Director at Nesta Challenges said.

Nesta will provide guided support to seven finalists so that they can develop their concepts into working prototypes.

“By turning the strongest ideas into reality, we will help tackle one of the major challenges facing our society,” added Dyson.

Applications for the Tech to Connect Challenge are open from the 26th June 2019 to the 7th August 2019.


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