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.

Dr William Mapham, Founder & CEO

William is an ophthalmologist. 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.

Dr Lungi Nyathi, Board of Directors

Dr Lungi Nyathi is the Executive Director, Health Management, at Medscheme. She graduated as a medical doctor from UCT, after which she worked in the public health sector for 5 years. She then moved to Medscheme Holdings, where she ran the GEMS managed care business unit as Executive Manager, overseeing over 500 staff and managing the health care for 1.8 million lives. At the same time, she was the Executive Director for Aid for AIDS, a subsidiary of Afrocentric Health and chair of its Board. She served on the Mowbray Maternity Hospital Board for just under 2 years, and currently serves on the board of the Health Foundation.

Nic Haralambous, Board of Directors

Nic is the founder of NicHarry.com, a style company based in Cape Town. He was the CEO and co-founder of Motribe before the company was successfully acquired by Africa’s largest social network, Mxit in August, 2012. Motribe, was named by Forbes as one of the top 20 startups in Africa in 2012. Nic was selected as one of the 200 young South Africans to take to lunch by the Mail&Guardian, featured on GQ’s list of top 30 men in media and was also a finalist in the Men’s Health Best Men Awards. He has worked as the head of the mobile division at Mail & Guardian and Product Manager of Vodacom SA’s mobile social networking division.

Dr Peter Benjamin, Board of Directors

Dr Peter Benjamin is the director of the non-profit HealthEnabled, which builds integrated digital health to improve health outcomes at scale in countries of the global South, with a particular focus on mHealth. Before that he worked for the mHealth Alliance. Until 2013 he was the managing director of Cell-Life, a non-profit leader in mHealth based in South Africa. He has a first degree in Physics, a Masters in Information Technology and his PhD examined universal access to ICTs in South Africa through the telecentre programme in the late 1990s.