Vula is the brainchild of Dr William Mapham, who conceived the idea for the app while working at the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland. He experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by rural health workers when they need specialist advice.

A flash grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation, and some prototype design work from Flow Interactive (now part of Deloitte Digital) helped Dr Mapham to win the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award in 2013. The prize money enabled him to launch the app for Android and iOS in July 2014.

The app was initially only for ophthalmology referrals, but it quickly became clear that the functionality provided by Vula was widely needed. Specialists from several different fields donated their time to work with the Vula team to design functionality for their own specialities. Vula added cardiology, orthopaedics and burns in April 2016.

The aim of the app is to give health workers – particularly those in remote rural areas – a tool that helps to get patients quick and efficient specialist care.


We believe in lean software development. The first version of Vula, launched in October 2014, had limited features and was aimed only at ophthalmologists.

William Mapham, Founder

William is a registrar at the ophthalmology department of Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. He has served as the Vice Chair of the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RuDASA) and previously spent time in New York and Washington designing mobile phone applications for healthcare. He has published academic articles on the role of innovation and technology in improving healthcare delivery, and has extensive experience in rural health care.

Debré Barrett, Product Director

Debré was co-founder of UX design agency Flow Interactive, a business she sold to Deloitte Digital in 2014. Before Flow, she worked as a journalist and editor for ITV, Channel 4 and IOL, and spent 6 years at the BBC in London producing travel, motoring and history websites. She has consulted to companies like Mediclinic, MWEB, Old Mutual, Samsung, Primedia, Foschini Group, Virgin Active and many others. She has a long-standing interest in healthcare innovation.