I had the opportunity to meet Mridul Chowdhury, CEO of ClickDiagnostics, several months ago and I have been following his work since then. U.S. based ClickDiagnostics uses cell phones to deliver healthcare to rural communities. They are working now in Bangladesh, India and Africa. Will using cell phones be the next big thing for social service organizations to tackle some of the rural development issues and perhaps, grow philanthropy?
Since it is difficult to access doctors for those living in rural villages, Mridul’s team deploys health workers with cell phones to those areas. The cell phones are equipped with macro lenses and software for questioning patients about their ailments. They take close-up images of eyes or skin to diagnose disorders. The images and audio files are sent via cell phone to a server linked to a regional doctor who makes the diagnoses. Within 24 hours, the health worker receives the diagnoses. Patients would pay the health worker for the services.
Groups, like ClickDiagnostics, that are using cells phones as social change platforms may be able to solve some of our societal problems where access to healthcare, education, and information is difficult. But it doesn’t end there. During the Sichuan earthquake in China last year, many individuals used cell phones to donate funds to selected organizations providing relief. In China, you can even start your own private foundation using your cell phone.
Universities are also taking advantage of the popluarity and use of cell phones. Cyber University in Japan now runs courses through cell phones. This year, 25 students are enrolled in a cell phone class at MIT geared around Android, the first fully open mobile operating system developed by Google. Students will learn the ins and outs of the Android platform and build applications to run the operating sytem. Maybe they will develop an app one day to solve some of our most pressing needs? Or, an app that shows warnings that a tsunami or a cyclone is coming? Maybe teach students without having them walk miles to school each day? How great would it be for grantees to instantly capture a life changing event of a beneficiary and then send it to the donor? In other words, how can we make the world a better place with a device that can be easily accessible in certain parts of the world?
See also: Preerna Srivastava writes on ThinkChangeIndia’s blog about her new her work with ClickDiagnostics summer, Leveraging Mobile Technology for Maternal Health in Gujarat, India.