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. This redesign enabled the app to scale to include referral forms for any number of specialities.
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.