This year’s AidEx Aid Innovation Challenge Winner Kevin White, Executive Director of Global Vision 2020 tells us all about his winning invention, the USee Vision System, and how he came to develop it.
What inspired you to establish the USee Vision Kit?
In 2005 I was the U.S. Department of Defense Director of Humanitarian Assistance Programs for Africa and Eastern Europe. In that capacity, I planned and participated in humanitarian outreach in Morocco. This outreach included an eyeglasses distribution using donated eyeglasses. Observing these efforts, I was bothered by the inefficiency of the programs that distributed used eyeglasses. Most people did not get 20-20 vision and many people picked the frame they liked versus the prescription they needed.
I then began studying the problem, established the non-profit organisation Global Vision 2020, and developed a system that organisations already doing work in the developing world could use. It allows them to test someone’s vision and make them a pair of prescription eyeglasses in 10 to 15 minutes.
Tell us about your product and its unique selling point.
The USee Vision System™ is a system that gives almost any network the ability to deliver eyeglasses with only a few hours of training. The system is comprised of the USee Vision Screening Tool™ that enables the easy determination of a patient’s eyeglasses prescriptive needs. That prescription is then easily translated into a pair of snap-together eyeglasses. The system is unique in that it has been successfully clinically trialed and uses the concept of “self-refraction” (a patient determining their best prescription – much like a pair of binoculars) to address a patient’s exact prescription, and then provide those eyeglasses on the spot.
What problem is your invention seeking to solve?
It is estimated that over 2.5 billion people in the world need, but do not have, access to the eyeglasses they need. Much of the need is due to no cost-effective solution to the distribution of eyeglasses. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa for example, there is about 1 optometrist per 1 million people. In the developed world, those numbers are closer to 1 per 8,000. Poor vision is also the world's largest unmet disability. The WHO estimates that for every adult that needs, but has no access to eyeglasses, the global economy takes about a $1,800 loss.
The way to solve this crisis is to change how eyeglasses are distributed. We have addressed this with our system by empowering any network of community health workers, teachers and the like to directly solve this problem.
What do you believe made your innovation stand out to the AidEx judges during the live final?
The fact that poor vision is such a massive issue, with no simple solution to date is not well known. That the USee Vision System™ has been tested, approved by industry standard-bearers, and is ready to scale. We have already addressed and corrected the poor vision of over 40,000 people in a year and a half on a very limited budget.
All our system needs to continue its trajectory of addressing this massive need is the awareness of the appropriate players that it exists. The AidEx award helps on that front.
What has your innovation achieved so far and what are its ambitions? And how has it achieved this?
To date, we have delivered, through our distribution partners, over 40,000 pairs of eyeglasses in 40 countries. This has been achieved by over 35 different partners. Eventually, I envision a USee Vision System™ at every local clinic, at every school, or local pharmacies. The ability to address over 92% of the eye health issues identified by the WHO with a single system is an opportunity to achieve this goal.
How did you feel winning the award?
It was an amazing experience. My fellow competitors all had fantastic innovations, and I was pretty nervous about our chances. I am extremely pleased to have been selected and am confident that this award further validates our solution as a viable one that needs to be implemented.
What would say to other entrepreneurs aspiring to win the AidEx Aid Innovation Challenge?
I would encourage them to go for it! The event itself is worth the trip as I met so many other organisations that could benefit from the use of our innovation. They viewed my selection to the finalist list as a validation of our concept. It's a great way to make an introduction.