EyeSkills is already a complex piece of software, with many thousands of hours poured into its design, execution and testing. So far, most of these costs have been met privately – after all, this started out as a project to help my son. In the past six months we have received generous funding from the prototype fund which regards EyeSkills as one of its “lighthouse projects, amongst the most visionary and well executed project we have had”.
Unfortunately, the project cannot survive indefinitely from public funding – despite it being for the public and of considerable value. It typically takes up to a month to complete an application, and six to twelve months before hearing whether or not it has been successful. Most funds have onerous reporting requirements and are dependent on a particular company structure or team composition. I believe public funding for public open-source is a morally correct way to raise capital, but it is simply too bureaucratic, inflexible, and long-term for the short-term.
My original goal was to develop an affordable and simple to use system which could drive our understanding of strabism and amblyopia forward. This remains my goal. The question is, who is willing and able to pay for this – who gains the most benefit, when and why?
To keep the project going in the short term, one option is to make the system available through the app stores for a fixed price. I would set this price per country, at the average of a single days wage. This would go directly towards further developing the system.
Another option is to move to a subscription model. For as long as the user feels the system is useful (the time required to see changes may vary from days to never) they pay a subscription. The price for this subscription could, again, be pinned to the average income per country. Whether a subscription model is most relevant to end users, or to clinics, is another issue.
In the medium term, we aim to make EyeSkills the worlds first open-source medically certified app. This will cost many tens of thousands to achieve. Perhaps crowd funding is a viable option. To make crowd funding a success will require a team of enthusiastic supporters, and many months of effort in advance to organise a successful campaign. We do not yet have that strength of community dedication behind us, and I cannot do it alone.
For the moment, I am volunteering many hundreds of hours in trying to raise the necessary public funds, but if there are other options, or you wish to get involved… please get in touch.