ictdchick: information technology, healthcare, and africa Rotating Header Image

May, 2008:

Following in the footsteps of a japanese-american civil engineer…

For those of you that think that I should post stuff about me on my blog – the my school just posted a piece about an award I just got on the website. It’s really cool – the Foundations for Change: Thomas I Yamashita Prize supports young activists that make social change happen. If you get a chance, you should read about Yvette Marie Robles and Lina Hu, the Honorable Mention awardees – they’ve done (and continue to do) amazing work in Oakland and China.

Rabin was nice enough to do an audio recording of parts of the ceremony.

If you are bandwidth limited, there are lower bitrate versions also here:

Mobile Phone Microscope

So last year, our co-winners in the Bears Breaking Boundaries IT for Society contest was a group of students working on attachments for cell phone cameras that could be used for microscopy diagnosis of diseases like malaria. Since then both of our projects have been taken up by the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and the Telemicroscopy for Disease Diagnosis project has been written up in the news by a number of media organizations, including a recent issue of the Economist.

It’s part of an interesting new direction for technology research – instead of just building faster, more high-resolution (and more expensive) devices, people are working on ways to build low cost devices that are more robust, can be mass produced, and can provide good enough information for primary triage.

On another note, these devices (as the economist article posits) could be well deployed with a good mobile-phone-based data collection system – collecting not just text and numbers, but images as well.

As part of the evaluation for the Uganda OBA project, Ben Bellows and his collaborators at Makarere University are conducting a household survey in the coverage area of the project and in a similar control area. As part of this survey they have to also do sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, trying to determine the actual prevalence of STIs and not just an estimate based on who comes in for diagnosis and treatment. Can you imagine how much easier and verifiable these surveys would be if 1) the data collection could be done electronically, and 2) digital media for the testing could be integrated into the data collection records? Not that all diagnoses could be done with cell-phone microscopy, and you still need careful sample and slide preparation. But it’s still something to think about…

Solar Power for Emergency Obstetric Care in Nigeria

2008 BBB Citris Award Recipients
This is a bit belated (I’m something like 6 months behind on blog posts) but my group got an honorable mention at this year’s Bear’s Breaking Boundaries IT for Society competition. Our project, led by Laura Stachel (MD, studying for a DrPH in the School of Public Health) proposes to provide sufficient reliable power for lighting, diagnostic equipment, and communications to support emergency obstetric care for a rural hospital in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. It’s a really cool proposal – basically coming up with a series (aka "menu") of solar lighting and power packages for different climates. Lighting is provided through led flood-lamps, power is intended for diagnostic equipment, and charging of communications equipment, with everything completely independent of the main power system of the hospital (minimizing exposure to power spikes and unwanted drainages). I think the other good thing about this proposal is that it targets emergency care – an oft-neglected and sorely critical aspect of healthcare in developing regions. For more info, there’s a flyer here and you can contact us at wheretheresnolight at googlegroups dot com.


My friend Neema pointed out AfriGadget, a blog showcasing African ingenuity. The posts currently on the front page feature everything from biodiesel and renewable energy to simpsons toys to mobile phones made from recycled parts.