Autism app Google finalist

An app which has helped thousands detect the early signs of autism in children, is a finalist in the Australian Google Impact Challenge.

Google will award $4.5 million to 10  Australian organisations for technology innovations that tackle some of the world’s biggest social challenges. The 10 finalists were announced today and Australians are invited to vote for the project they think will have the most impact.

The research based app – called ASDetect – was developed in conjunction with cloud computing company Salesforce and is based on breakthrough research by Dr Josephine Barbaro from La Trobe’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC).

It has already led to the early intervention of 4000 children as young  as 11 months old with indications of autism.

“Early intervention can enhance a child’s ability to learn for the rest of their lives, which is why this diagnosis is so important,” Dr Barbaro said.

As a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, La Trobe has already been awarded $250 000 to expand availability of the life-changing information, by tailoring the app linguistically, culturally and socially to different countries around the world.

La Trobe could be one of four winning organisations to receive a $750,000 grant further boosting the access to families and children internationally. Judging will be based on the project that provides the greatest social impact to the community.

“Our research shows you can detect signs of autism in young children, but without awareness and access to the right information it’s incredibly difficult for parents to do this on their own. This challenge is even greater in developing countries.”

“By rolling out this app internationally, we can assist in the early identification and diagnosis of more than 73 million children, paving the way for early intervention and better developmental outcomes," Dr Barbaro said.

Alan Noble, Director of Engineering, Google Australia said, ”We know good ideas combined with technology can help to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Ten Australian not-for-profits have been selected as finalists in the latest round of the Google Impact Challenge for their outstanding ideas to use technology to make an impact on important causes.”

Dan Bognar, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific at Salesforce said, “We are thrilled that ASDetect is a finalist for the Google Impact Challenge. The success of the app is testament to OTARC's vision and the innovation that only Salesforce can deliver. Our partnership with OTARC demonstrates the disruptive power of cloud and mobile technology to unlock groundbreaking research that tackles global social challenges. We thank our team of Salesforce volunteers for their teamwork and dedication in bringing this incredible initiative to life.”

OTARC Director Professor Cheryl Dissanayake said, “This nomination is wonderful recognition of the positive impact our innovative app is having and of its future potential. Since its launch in Australia in February this year, ASDetect has been downloaded more than 10 000 times.”

On Wednesday October 26, the 10 finalists will pitch their projects to a panel of judges, to select three winners. A fourth winner will be decided by public vote. Voting closes October 25 – to vote click here.

Photo: Genevieve and son Henry, who attended OTARC’s Early Assessment Clinic.

Media contact Briena Barrett: 0432 566 014